Inside boundary row between Nyamira and Kisii counties over promising town

Traders at a market in Keroka town. Residents claim they have been subjected to double taxation since 2015. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Perennial wrangles between Nyamira and Kisii counties over the administration of Keroka town has slowed investments and derailed its growth. 

The agricultural town has a lot of potential to grow, but has been struggling to find its footing since the inception of devolution in 2013. Residents now claim they are feeling the pinch as the two counties continue to tussle over the administration of the town, a disagreement that has also grossly affected revenue collection.

A section of residents told The Standard they have been subjected to double taxation from 2015 when revenue collectors from the two counties pitched tent in the town.

Charles Mose, 80, who lives in Keroka town says during the era of the defunct local governments, the Town Council of Keroka would solely manage the affairs of the area.

“We only came to witness ugly scenes of people fighting over boundaries they know nothing about after devolution,” says Mose.

Several attempts to resolve the problem have all crumbled, including an attempt by former governors James Ongwae (Kisii) and John Nyagarama (Nyamira) who agreed during their first term to divide the town into two.

Senator Esther Okenyuri. She is seeking the intervention of the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations regarding the dispute. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The agreement temporarily halted the feud but competition between the two counties stalled development. The conflict was revived again two months ago after revenue clerks clashed over points of collecting matatu cess.

It took the intervention of Masaba North sub-county Police Commander Robert Ndambili who summoned revenue clerks and town administrators to broker a truce.

Residents are hopeful that several initiatives that have been adopted will finally resolve the problem. A solution is being sought in courts while politicians are also lobbying for a solution at the Senate.

Rigoma MCA Gisesa Nyambega has moved to the Environment and Lands Court seeking legal intervention.

In his petition, Nyambega has cited historical misdoings which led to the County of Nyamira losing out its legitimate boundaries to the neighbouring Kisii County.

The matter is ongoing at Nyamira Lands Court before Justice Mugo Kamau. Among issues to be determined are the exact boundaries of the urban area, and marking of boundaries using permanent beacons.

On Thursday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the National Land Commission presented documents, including maps, indicating the demarcations of the boundaries between Kisii and Nyamira.

At the Senate, nominated Senator Esther Okenyuri has sought the intervention of the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations regarding the dispute.