No tears for the revered crying stone of Ilesi
WESTERN | By Simon Oyeng’ | April 27th 2021
For decades, the crying stone in Ilesi, Shinyalu constituency, has told the heritage of Kakamega people.
Many people travel from far and wide to behold the wonder of ‘tears’ flowing from a rock. The county government employed villagers who do various chores at the site, including sweeping and manning the area to prevent intruders after it was gazetted as a tourist site.
But since 2015 — the year locals believe the stone cried last — its presence has lost meaning and significance in the region, prompting calls to the county government to turn the site into a quarry mine instead.
Locals argue that the advent of coronavirus pandemic has rendered those who were employed there jobless. According to them, since the confirmation of the first case of Covid-19 in the country, the site has registered few or no tourists.
Most of them believe the only way of lifting them from the harsh economic effects of the virus is to turn the iconic feature into a quarry.
But Kakamega County Executive for Trade and Tourism Alfred Matianyi says the county government cannot yield to such demands, maintaining that there were plans to give the site a major facelift.
“The impact of the virus has been felt on every sector. We can’t shut operations there because of such challenges. We have embarked on expansion, this is why we continue to buy land from locals. We shall also be fencing the place as in the past, we have not seriously made it an income generating activity,” said Matianyi.
Ernest Shitera, 63, whose home is near the famous crying stone, insists the best way of creating job opportunities for locals is through turning the place into a quarry. Shitera claims the stone has not shed a tear in over six years. “No one has recorded or documented the stone crying for a long time; it just stopped,” he says.
“These days, the place is deserted as the stone no longer cries. Before people would travel from as far as America just to witness the uniqueness of the stone. This in return led to booming business around the area, but not so today,” said Shitera.
He says problems for the crying stone began when a section of locals started planting eucalyptus trees to prevent people taking photos at the site without making payment. He claims the move backfired as the trees slowly sucked water from the rocks, leaving them dry.
Shitera’s sentiments are shared by 35-year-old Hilda Musava, whose home is a few metres from the stone.
“There are people who have served here for more than 30 years but have not benefitted. Our efforts to ask for jobs have been in vain. Since we gave up our land, let the State do away with it and turn it into an income generating venture” said Musava.
Sebensia Muhiachi, 65, recently lost her job as a sweeper due to the harsh effects of Covid-19.
“I woke up and was told not to report to work again. I was told the decision was as a result of the low number of tourists visiting the site.”
Save for first year students from Kibabii and Masinde Muliro universities visiting the location, the crying stone has lost its mojo and has been reduced to an isolated feature.
According to Diana Agiso, a student at MMUST who The Standard caught up with at the site, the spot could still produce its spark if renovated.
“My visit was prompted by the stories I heard of this place. Where I come from, it is rare to find such huge stones on top of each other. Though there is no water flowing from the rock at the moment, the site is still amazing,” said Agiso.
Aside from the area lagging behind in terms of development, locals accuse the county government of harassing them when they sell food and ornaments to tourists.
“We are not allowed to enter the area. If you are caught you get arrested. We used to sell fruits like bananas and oranges to tourists; at least we were able to use that money to sustain ourselves,” said Felistus Nelima.
Postmortem reveals how Esther Wambui, whose body was found in suitcase, died
By Kamore Maina
- Matatu rams into Total petrol station, kills attendant, injures another
- Boys to men: Kalenjins living in Australia stick to their tradition
By Edward Kosut
- Judicial officer, Mombasa tycoons drawn into Nyali school land row
- Kenya Power launches smart metres to improve services
- Olekina: Mudavadi’s announcement will have no impact on 2022 polls