Kenyan Economy

Why selling BBI in Tharaka-nithi still remains an impossible task: A tale of abandoned government projects and a dusty stronghold

A dusty stretch of the Chuka-Kaareni road. Image/courtesy

To many, it is the stronghold county and a key part of the central Kenya voting block. Well known for its role in propelling former president Mwai Kibaki to power by tilting the win in favor of president Kibaki against his key competitor Raila Odinga in the heavily contested 2007 elections.

Since independence, this region has been loyal to central Kenya presidential candidates, not just by mouth but by votes.

Construction materials lie idle along the Chogoria-Kianjagi road after the contractor left the site due to funding. image/file

However, years of this unquestionable support have never been translated to development. for years, the county of slightly over 220 thousand voters has been deprived of the much-needed development despite playing a critical role in putting the government in place. yet this support has never really been translated into development for the people of the region.

It is actually until president Uhuru took over in 2013 that the county got a tarmac road apart from the Meru-Nairobi highway.

The jubilee government oversaw the tarmacking of Chuka town, as well as a few other roads in the county during its first term. However, most of the projects that were launched have either stalled or failed to take off completely.

One of the major road projects that connect Chuka-Kaareni road, that connects Chuka town to Kathwana county headquarters. Since the project began more than 7 years, the 37km road project was abandoned for some unknown reasons though local politics and corruption were considered to have played a key role in stalling the project. There are voices on the ground that another contractor has been awarded the construction project and that construction is meant to resume after the BBI report is passed, however, without the machinery in sight, residents consider such words as mere political statements.

Residents protest the delays in the construction of the Chuka – Kaareni road. image/courtesy

In 2018, the deputy president William Ruto visited the abandoned road after protests from the residents and ordered the Kenya roads board to tender afresh for the construction of the road, close to 3 years later, nothing has been done. The road construction that has has stalled for 7 years now still remains a dusty stretch with the contractor having only tarmaked 2 kms of the road befor exiting the site.

Another project that has stalled is the construction of the road that links Chogoria town from Chogoria girls high school to Kianjagi. Initially, the company doing this road did some commendable work on the road, then all of a sudden, the road construction was stopped. What remains by the sides of the road for close to a year now are construction materials with the contractor having removed his machinery from the sight. Our attempts to reach the area MP Kareke Mbiuki for comments were unsuccessful.

Less than five kilometers away, the construction of the road that passes via Kajiunduthi high school all the way to Weru tea factory was also abandoned. word has it that the project, together with the Chogoria-Kianjagi road is related to the same contractors. they blame the happenings on tenders that were awarded to brokers who had no ability to complete the roads but instead subcontracted the work to some other construction companies.

Apart from these projects, Tharaka-nithi county still remains a dusty county, with few passable roads within the county. And where they are passable, they are deemed impassable during the rainy seasons.

several local leaders have protested the cold shoulder the county has received from successive governments when it comes to development, and on the ground, voices of people tired of blindly following their central Kenya brothers when it comes to voting are too loud to be ignored.

It is the hope of the residents that the government will move with speed and complete these projects, including other projects for dams and industries that were promised to voters during the campaigns.

Youths in the county feel left behind, with no industries to provide employment, most youths remain idle and jobless, and the county government has not made it easier for youths, with no actionable plan to spur development and provide opportunities for the residents.

In this environment, passing the BBI in the region will prove difficult: Tharaka-nithi remains one of the regions that are strongly anti-BBI. yes, the County Assembly will pass it, but unless something is done to give hope to the region that will lose over Shs.300 Million if BBI goes through, the region will vote no by a majority.