Government decommissions decades-old Suneka airstrip

A contractor working on the expansion of Suneka Airstrip. [Eric Abuga, Standard]

The Government has announced plans to decommission Suneka Airstrip in Kisii County.

Leaders in Kisii have been pushing for the rehabilitation of the airstrip that has been in operation for four decades to enable cargo and passenger airlines to begin plying the region.

Five years ago, the airstrip received its first phase of upgrading, which was done for Sh52 million and involved the construction of a perimeter wall, parking, an administration block and a passenger lounge.

In 2022, the Government announced plans to expand the Airstrip runway as part of the Sh132 million rehabilitation plan to accommodate bigger aeroplanes.

According to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), the runway will be expanded from the current length of 950 meters to 1.045 kilometres.

When attending an Interdenominational Church in Nyaribari Masaba Kisii on Sunday, President William Ruto announced that the airstrip was set for decommissioning.

The President said there was not enough land to allow KAA to expand the existing airstrip, hence the need to find an alternative land in the area for the construction of an airport to allow for the landing of commercial aeroplanes.

“I request leaders from both Kisii and Nyamira Counties to handle this matter with the urgency it demands. I am decommissioning Suneka Airstrip to give room for our leaders to find an alternative land where my Government will put up an airport.”

President Ruto said the land under the Suneka Airstrip would then be converted for use by other public institutions.

Leaders from Kisii County had been making requests to the National Government to have the airstrip funded for its expansion and completion of the under-construction runway.

Their counterparts from Nyamira had also requested funding for the proposed Kiendege Airstrip in the Kitutu Masaba constituency.

A section of the stalled Suneka airstrip in Kisii County, January 2018. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Leaders from the two counties will now be forced to return to the drawing board after the Head of State said that the construction of the Kiendege Airstrip was not viable either.

“Experts have reported that it could be impossible to have an airstrip at the proposed Kiendege area. Let the leaders agree on how to move forward and my Government will give the necessary support.”

The President’s pronouncement means ongoing construction of phase two works at the Suneka Airstrip will now be stopped.  

Kisii Governor Simba Arati and Bomachoge Chache MP Alfa Miruka, who spoke during the event, had made a request to the Government to put an airport in the Nyangusu area in Bobasi Constituency arguing that there was enough land in the area. Nyangusu area borders Narok County along the Kilgoris-Kisii border.

The Government had estimated to spend Sh500 million to put up the Kiendege Airstrip in Nyamira. The area has approximately 60 acres, including the Kiendege playground that previously hosted various school games in the region.

In November 2021, residents living around a Kiendege area petitioned the Government demanding that the Government carry out proper public participation before beginning the process to establish an airstrip in the area.

According to the locals, the Government had gone ahead to map out the area without their participation, a move that they claim could lead to their relocation without compensation.

They also claimed that the establishment of the airstrip could mean that three major institutions in the area; Kiendege Primary, Secondary School, Village Polytechnic and government health facility be closed.

At Suneka Airstrip, locals will now be forced to return to public participation on how to use the now-free land.

The Constituency Development Fund office has been planning to put up a Technical Vocational Training Centre in the Constituency, but the plans have been thwarted by inadequate land.

The President also advised area leaders to allocate land in various urban areas for the construction of affordable housing.