Uhuru’s projects blitz confounds friend and foe

Thursday, May 27th, 2021 00:00 |
President Uhuru kenyatta commissions the 1st berth at Lamu Port. Photo/PD/BONFACE MSANGI

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

President Uhuru Kenyatta was in Lucky Summer estate in Nairobi yesterday to officially open a Sh300 million ultra-modern Neema abattoir with capacity to slaughter 12,000 goats and 6,000 sheep a day, for local and export markets.

It was the latest in dozens of projects the Head of State has either launched or opened in the last one month, all worth about Sh400 billion, in what appears to be a race against time to ensure completion of his flagship projects ahead of the 2022 General Election barely 13 months away.

On Monday, the President was in Athi River, Machakos County, where he presided over the re-opening of the refurbished Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) factory.

KMC, with an installed daily slaughter capacity of 1,250 large animals and 2,000 small stock, was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to that of Defence in September last year.

The latest whirlwind tour to launch or open development projects started last Wednesday when he presided over the opening of the Sh310 billion new Lamu Port, marking a major milestone for the regional Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor project (LAPSSET) launched in 2012. 

Smart politician

“When complete, the Sh310 billion port will have 32 berths, 29 of which will be financed by the private sector, making it the largest deep-water port in sub-Saharan Africa,” Uhuru told those in attendance.

President Uhuru Kenyatta presides over the official opening of the ultra-modern Neema abattoir at Lucky Summer.

On the same day, he launched the 114-kilometre Garsen-Witu-Lamu road that will facilitate movement of cargo in and out of Lamu Port, and which is part of multi-billion shilling road projects being constructed in the Coast region.

Two days after he left Lamu, Uhuru was in Kiambu County  to commission operational vehicles and engineering equipment at the Thika barracks that was refurbished by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) technical team.

Earlier this month, the President had launched a Sh4 billion state-owned small arms factory in Ruiru.

The factory has a single-shift annual production capacity of 12,000 assault rifles and is part of a broad multi-agency national security industries strategy which, he said, was encouraged by Kenya’s success in the local manufacture of some of the equipment needed in the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic.              

 Those who congratulated the President for the launch of the Lamu Port included Deputy President  William Ruto, who has previously accused his boss of concentrating on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) campaign at the expense of the Big Four agenda projects.

“The commissioning of the Lamu Port is a milestone in the trans-boundary infrastructure programme that will enhance trade in the Eastern Africa region.

The project will promote the realisation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.

This is a major achievement for our country, the region and, indeed, the African continent. Congratulations President Uhuru Kenyatta for spearheading this legacy project,” Ruto said.

From launching thousands of kilometres of roads and railways as well projects in water and irrigation, manufacturing, sports, security, health, power and agricultural sectors, Uhuru has cut the image of a man racing against time to own and display his government’s mega projects across the country, which pundits say will not only turn around the economy but also secure his legacy.

The President is led on an inspection tour of the improvement works of Kisumu Port on October 22, 2020 where he witnessed the loading of 11 wagons of industrial sugar on ‘MV Uhuru’ at Kisumu Port.

Water Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki whose ministry is undertaking projects worth well over Sh300 billion states that the government has done a lot to deliver on its promises.

“For the last eight years, a lot has been done to improve infrastructure and deliver services.

I am hardly in the office because we have several water, irrigation and sanitation projects underway, but it is very unfortunate that politics has clouded all these,” she said yesterday.

Cheranga’ny MP and Jubilee Party deputy secretary general Joshua Kutuny said the heightened engagements by the President demonstrated his commitment to delivering on his promises to Kenyans.

“He is showing the masses that he is determined to fulfill the promises he made to them.

His critics had succeeded in obscuring his achievements through bad politics and trying to create a false impression that whatever projects that are ongoing are as a result of the DP’s own initiative,” Kutuny told People Daily yesterday.

He added: “As a smart politician who he is, Uhuru waited for the right time and people can now see what he has done. I am happy he will leave a good legacy.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Nyeri Town MP Njunjiri Wambugu who argued that by presiding over the projects, Uhuru was deconstructing narratives by his critics led by the DP that he had failed to live up to expectations of the people.

“It means that behind the rhetoric, work has been going on. Remember the DP who has been claiming that the government had lost direction and even opening non-existing projects in some areas for political capital had poisoned the ground for the President.

Uhuru is proving him wrong to the extent that the DP has no option but to congratulate him,” Wambugu said.

Next week, the President will be in Kisumu County to not only preside over Madaraka Day celebrations, but also commission a number of the so-called “Handshake Projects” undertaken after his historic peace deal with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in March 2018.

Among the projects to be unveiled will be the Sh3.8 billion rehabilitated Nakuru-Kisumu metre-gauge railway, the Sh3 billion refurbished Kisumu Port and the Sh350 million ultra-modern Uhuru business park market.

The President is also set to unveil the Jomo Kenyatta international stadium at Mamboleo on the town’s outskirts, the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga sports complex, the inland container depot at Kibos, and a 400kv power project by Ketraco.

He will also commission a marine school in Kisumu which is part of the Railway Training Institute, among other projects.

Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) through board chairman Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Umudho Awitta confirmed the Nakuru-Kisumu railway line is nearly ready for use ahead of its scheduled launch next week.

“It is very likely that the President and his Handshake partner Raila Odinga will ride on the train as they get into Kisumu when he (the President) will then officially commission the project,” Awitta said of the project which is in the third phase of the rehabilitation of the meter gauge railway after Nairobi-Nyeri-Nanyuki and Nairobi-Nakuru lines as well the Nairobi commuter lines which are already operational.

Also nearing completion is the Green Park bus terminus being undertaken by the Nairobi Metropolitan Service, an ultra-modern bus station on Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi.

Besides infrastructure projects, Uhuru last month launched the semi-conductor technologies plant at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (Dekut) in Nyeri which put Kenya among Thailand, South Korea, Japan and the US that manufacture semi-conductors that are used in smartphones, tablets and other electronics products.

Western bypass

Through Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA), Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) and Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA), the government has completed and implemented thousands of kilometres of tarmac road across the country.

For instance, KeNHA is presiding over the construction of the 27-kilometre four-lane, dual carriageway dubbed Nairobi Expressway between Mlolongo and Waiyaki Way at a cost of Sh62 billion.

“Traffic studies and projections indicate an estimated 30 per cent of the vehicles will travel along the new expressway.

This will result in reduced travel times for road users plying both the Expressway and the A8 road,” Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia says of the project.

Besides, the government is also constructing the Sh17 billion James Gichuru Junction-Rironi as well as the 16-kilometre Nairobi Western bypass, a Sh17-billion project.

The Western bypass is a 15.3 kilometre dual carriageway traversing Kabete and Kiambaa constituencies before joining the Northern Bypass which connects Kiambu and Thika roads leading to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as well as Mombasa Road via the Eastern by-pass.

The project is part of the ongoing 1, 200 kilometre roads projects at cost of over Sh100 billion in the Mt Kenya region which has been grappling with poor road network which has for long undermined its economic potential.

Work is underway on the 40 kilometre Mau Mau road, which connects Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri and Nyandarua counties. It is valued at Sh30 billion.

According to KeNHA regional manager in charge of Central Rift, Ezekiel Fukwo, the project is expected to be completed by May 2023, easing pressure on the main Nairobi-Nakuru highway and opening up the central region’s immense economic potential.

“The road will support socio-economic development in the project area, promoting agricultural activities, tourism, housing development, dairy farming, and educational institutions and open up new opportunities,” said Fukwo.

“Because of availability of land and labour, we will have investors scrambling for space in these areas to put up industries that will rely on agricultural products such as dairy, horticulture for value addition and farmers will get more income and more jobs created,” according to Githunguri MP Kago wa Lydia.

There is also the Kenol-Sagana-Marua dual carriageway, a segment of the proposed 219km Kenol-Isiolo road to be implemented in two segments, Kenol-Marua (84 kilometres) and Marua-Isiolo (135 km) with the former whose cost is Sh16 billion already underway.

In the north-eastern region where massive power and transport network projects are underway, a 750-kilometre Isiolo-Mandera Road projects is underway at a cost of Sh81 billion.

Living standards

Mandera Governor Ali Roba says once realised, the project will bring down the cost of living, reduce the time taken to travel to the region and enable trading and investment beyond the North.

“The project will improve living standards, reduce widespread poverty in these counties and create job opportunities for the youth,” he said.

In October last year, the President launched the construction of the Ulinzi Sports Complex which will host a modern football pitch and training ground, an indoor arena, basketball and tennis courts, and an Olympic-size swimming pool, and the inauguration of a 70-bed capacity Defence Forces Wellness Centre.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Water is undertaking mega projects, notably the Sh24 billion Karimenu dam being built on a 600-acre piece of land in Kiambu.

Also under construction is the Sh63 billion Thwake dam that will provide 150,000 cubic metres of water for domestic use in Makueni, Kitui and Machakos counties.

A Sh35 billion Malewa dam has been proposed on Lake Naivasha, while works on the Sh400 million sewerage system in Ol Kalou township and the Sh200-million Karagoini water project in Ndaragwa are underway.

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