Locals angered by long delay in constructing bridge at river

Ongoing construction works of a suspended bridge across River Enziu in Kitui County. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

When the River Enziu bus tragedy struck, there were calls for a suspended bridge to be constructed across the massive river, which becomes a killer trap during the rainy season.

Top national government functionaries in the Jubilee Government rushed to the killer river, ostensibly on fact finding missions and promised, among other things, that a proper bridge would be put up across the river.

 Infrastructure Principal Secretary Paul Maringa, who visited the scene on December 7, promised that the bridge will be built at a cost of Sh500 million and be completed by December this year.

A week later, the PS told Parliament that his ministry had secured funds for the overhead bridge, whose construction started in January this year.

However, today, a year later, only 10 per cent of the project has been done with locals calling on the government to fast track the construction to save more lives from death.

When The Standard and KTN team visited River Enziu last week, we found that only one pillar of the bridge had been put up since January.

Kariuki Theuri, the contractor undertaking the works, however, blamed the ministry of Roads for the slow pace of the project.

Design variations

Mr Theuri stated that there were variations in the design of the bridge that altered the entire contract, leading to additional financial costs.

He noted that the additional costs had to be approved by the ministry and it took time to be released. The new contract amount is Sh570 million.

The supervising engineer, Mbavu Sayo, who is also the regional manager for Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra) said the contractor was slightly behind schedule of the 24 months period given to deliver the project.

Mr Sayo noted that the contractor was supposed to have built the supporting columns in the middle of the river before October, saying that such critical works cannot be done during the rainy season.

“We have directed the contractor to concentrate on the banks for now until the rain season is over,” Mr Sayo said and expressed optimism that the bridge would be complete within the stipulated time.

A popular Matatu Sacco that plies the Mombasa-Kibwezi-Kitui-Mwingi-Nuu route has been dropping passengers in Mwingi town whenever the river is flooded. Other public service vehicles that ply the Mwingi-Nuu route have occasionally been stuck on either side of the river whenever it rains.

“The government promised to erect a bridge by December this year. December is here and there is no semblance of a bridge. We are asking the government to deliver on this promise,” said Manzi Mwanzia, a resident of Nguni.  

Faith Ndunge, a local resident who is employed as a casual labourer by the contractor, said the completion of the bridge would be a huge relief to area residents who have to wait for days on end on the river banks when the river is swollen.

During our visit, the seasonal river was dry, owing to a few days of dry weather and the killer gorge that swallowed the wedding party was still visible from both sides, a stark reminder of the tragic events one year ago.