Kenya is set to upgrade sections of the road that connects the country to South Sudan as it further opens up northern Kenya.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) said it plans to construct two segments of the road between Eldoret and Juba in South Sudan with a length of nearly 200 kilometres (Km).
The road has in the past been in a dilapidated state and also prone to banditry attacks that have seen many transporters moving cargo to and from Juba opt to use a longer route through Uganda.
KeNHA said it would spend Sh16 billion on building the 142km road between Morpus in West Pokot County – which is about 60Km from Kitale and Lokichar in Turkana County.
It will spend a further Sh6.6 billion on upgrading a 55km road between Lesseru in Uasin Gishu County and Kitale in Trans Nzoia County.
“The Lesseru–Juba (road) is the main corridor that provides the only road link to Turkana and West Pokot counties, all the way to South Sudan, serving people living in extreme poverty,” said KeNHA in an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) submitted to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), seeking approvals to build the road.
“The improvement of the corridor will help reduce regional development imbalance in Kenya as well as improve the environment for stimulating economic development in the area, including attracting private investment.”
The two roads form part of the 945km road from Eldoret to the Kenya-South Sudan border at Nakadok and onwards to Juba, cutting through Kitale, Kapenguria, Kainuk, Lodwar, Kakuma and other vital centres.
While the route is said to cut through a region with immense potential in areas such as tourism, livestock production as well as the fledgling oil sector, it has over the years been characterised by poor infrastructure and cattle rustling that has bred high incidences of insecurity.
Truckers and other motorists using the road have to be escorted by armed security when going past Kainuk trading centre.
This has made the key road unattractive despite its potential to improve connectivity between Kenya and South Sudan. It has also made the delivery of goods to Lodwar and parts of Turkana County difficult and expensive.
“The project road is part of the international trunk road connecting South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania … the section of this corridor that is within Kenya is about 900km long starting at Isebania at the border with Tanzania and ending at Nakadok at the border with South Sudan. The road intersects with other critical corridors including the Northern Corridor Highway at Webuye and the Lapsset Corridor at Lodwar,” said KeNHA.
The road was key in implementing the Early Oil Pilot Scheme, which required trucks to ferry oil produced at the Lokichar fields by road to Mombasa. KeNHA has upgraded the Lokichar-Nadapal road.