Plans to tarmac the 365km Isiolo-Wajir-Mandera road received a major boost yesterday following the signing of a deal between the Government and five counties.
This comes after the World Bank advanced the government $10 million (Sh1 billion) to prepare engineering designs and bidding documents for the road.
The money is part of more than Sh51 billion earmarked by the World Bank to finance a series of projects under the North Eastern Transport Improvement Projects (NETIP).
According to Roads PS Julius Korir, documentation for the project has been completed and tendering expected within the next six months.
Construction work is expected to start in the next 12 months, with the main implementation agencies being the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) and the Information and Communication Technology Authority.
It will involve the upgrading of part of the 190km Isiolo-Modogashe road and the 175km Wajir-Elwak road.
The project, hailed as the biggest in the North Eastern region since independence, will also involve laying out a 748km fibre optic cable between Isiolo and Mandera to improve internet connectivity.
“This can be considered as the biggest development project ever undertaken (in the region) since independence,” said the PS during the signing of the deal at the ministry’s offices.
Five counties — Meru, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera — signed a memorandum of understanding on waiver of construction materials with the Roads ministry.
The deal was signed by governors Ali Korane (Garissa), Mohamed Abdi Mohamud (Wajir), Mohamud Ali (Marsabit) and Ali Roba (Mandera).
The main objective of NETIP is to improve road transport, digital connectivity and social economic status of communities along the Mandera road corridor.
The Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC) chairman Ali Roba, who is also the Mandera governor, referred to the project as the much-needed lifeline for the North Eastern region.
“This is a very emotional project as explained by my fellow governors who acknowledge the impact this road will have on our socioeconomic status,” said Mr Roba.
Wajir Governor Mohammed Abdi said the project would open up the region and put an end to perennial insecurity largely fueled by poor infrastructure.
The region has been grappling with attacks spearheaded by Al Shabaab militiamen that take advantage of poor transport and communication infrastructure to stage daring raids and disappear in the sprawling terrain.
The governors said they would involve local communities to create awareness on the project, adding that its completion would promote trade and investments between the counties.
“This project will be a landmark in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime in terms of development since he was responsible for initiating the collaboration between the Government and the World Bank,” said Roba.
The World Bank has said it is committed to working with the national and county governments to actualise the project.
The bank also promised to put in place environmental and social safeguards highlighted by KeNHA.