By DENNIS ONYANGO
Kisumu, Kenya: Kisumu has been a dark city for decades despite the county hosting hydro-electric power generation plants.
Kenya’s third largest city after Nairobi and Mombasa slips into total darkness at night as streetlights are conspicuously missing.
Walking at night in the city’s busiest but partly lit Oginga Odinga Street and Kenyatta Highway is a nightmare as most informal settlements and residential estates in the area remain deserted.
Despite housing the headquarters of the East African Community’s Lake Victoria Basin Commission, it is yet to live up to standards befitting a city.
The owner of a leading supermarket in the area said this has been the condition for more than two decades.
“Kisumu has been a city in darkness since I began business here. Leaders have not taken advantage of its proximity to the power source and its unexploited potential in biogas production,” said the entrepreneur.
Kisumu County prides itself of the Sondu/Miriu hydropower station, which was developed by KenGen. The plant has a capacity of 60 megawatts and an extension at Sangoro hydropower project that produces 21 megawatts. A section of private firms have however installed several streetlights near their premises.
The Nakumatt Supermarket stores have installed streetlights around Nyalenda, Kachok junction near Mega City’s multi-billion shillings shopping complex. Ukwala supermarket has also undertaken a similar initiative.
These firms’ efforts have however faced certain setbacks due to vandalism by criminals. Nyalenda B ward representative James Were claims more than ten people in his ward have lost their lives in the last two months after being beaten and robbed in the dark. “In some parts, businesses are closed as early as 6pm,” he said.
The executive had proposed Sh30 million for streetlights in the county set to become the commercial hub of the East African Community.
The county executive committee member in charge of Physical Planning, Roads and Public Works Vincent Kodera said they have already awarded tenders for installing the streetlights. He alleged the work set to begin in two weeks time had been derailed by corrupt city council officers who embezzled more than Sh10 million previously allocated to the project. The installation could bring a sigh of relief to the over 600,000 residents.
Tobias Were, a matatu operator narrowly escaped a carjacking, said his attackers had hidden behind a malfunctioning streetlight pole.
“Driving in this town at night is a big challenge. Criminals hide along the streets and attack residents,” he explained.
Last month, a hotelier was robbed of Sh40,000 in the town at night soon after he withdrew it from an ATM.