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Anxiety over Kisumu port opening delay

By John Oywa | November 12th 2019
By John Oywa | November 12th 2019

A view of MV Uhuru at the revamped Kisumu port with a view of Pipeline jetty on the other side of Lake Victoria. The two installations will boost the economy of the lakeside town. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The Government is racing against time to open the renovated Kisumu port amid growing anxiety worsened by the studious silence by State agencies supervising the project.

Yesterday, The Standard learnt that National Youth Service (NYS) personnel, who were withdrawn from the port last month, have returned for a clean-up, a signal the new Sh3 billion ‘handshake’ project could now be ready for the long-awaited official launch.

A source within the project’s working committee said they were preparing the facility for important guests expected in early December.

Clearest signal

“The NYS is back at the port. They are cutting grass and cleaning it. We want the guests to find it in good shape when they arrive,” a senior Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) official said in a clearest signal the State was now ready to officially open the facility.

While visiting Kisumu last Friday, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa hinted the port could be officially opened early next month. “The port is ready and we are coming down here with important guests to open it,” Mr Wamalwa said without elaborating.

The delay in opening the expanded and refurbished port and the secrecy surrounding it has raised eyebrows in the past  few months, with no senior government official willing to update the public on the start of the project.

The Government has since the start of the project thrown a heavy security cordon around the port, with only senior State and security officials allowed entry.

With all access to the lake front now fenced off, those trying to access the port have to go through rigorous inspection and security checks at a barrier.

Yesterday, a glimpse of the port through a vantage point from the roof top of a Kisumu hotel showed the construction work had been completed. 

Kenya’s giant wagon ferry, MV Uhuru, which roared back to life after being grounded for more than 15 years, was preparing for yet another test run. It sailed to Port Bell in Uganda three weeks ago and returned with empty oil tankers to be loaded at the Kisumu Oil Jetty.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has visited the port four times — twice with Opposition leader Raila Odinga. During the visits, the media and the public were denied access to the project area.

Sources privy to operations spoke of plans to have President Kenyatta and Odinga unveil the new port.

Rail line

He said the Sh1.7 billion Kenya Pipeline Oil Jetty, which is barely 5km from the port, will also be opened on the same day. The jetty will supply oil to be transported by MV Uhuru. Already, Kenya Railways Corporation has repaired and tested the rail line linking the port to the jetty.

“Kenya Pipeline officials are working at the jetty in preparation for the official opening on the same day as the port,” said a member of the port opening working committee who asked not to be named.

Last week, Petroleum Chief Administrative Secretary John Mosonik said the oil jetty will be commissioned in the next one or two months.

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