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Numbers don’t lie: Why Moses Kuria is wrong on Uhuru record

By Dominic Omondi | January 14th 2019
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria

“Today, a young child in Nyanza is four times more likely to die than a child in Central Province — even though they are equal in dignity and the eyes of God.”

Moses Kuria, Gatundu South MP, whose remarks that President Uhuru Kenyatta is by-passing his Mt Kenya backyard in development, might as well be amused by this statement by former US President Barack Obama when he visited Kenya three years ago.

“As we enter 2019, you (voters) must think … our responsibility is not just to vote and after voting, we (the Government that we form) take development to other regions. That kind of nonsense must stop,” said Kuria in a rally.

“We were with him in Kisumu where he commissioned a road project, but when he visits (Kiambu), he only issues certificates to recovering alcoholics,” he said. 

Mr Kuria might have a point. Since the rapprochement between the erstwhile political arch-rivals, President Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, there have been efforts to dole out a piece of the national cake to Luo Nyanza and other areas perceived to be opposition zones. 

Bigger picture

But that has not significantly changed the numbers. While what Obama said in when he visited Kenya in 2015 might not be necessarily true today, the statement speaks of a bigger picture that Kuria might have missed in his criticism of the President.

The Standard has burnt the midnight oil, painstakingly gleaning through a trove of official figures and facts, and reached a resoundingly cold conclusion: Moses Kuria is wrong, the numbers are not.

President Kenyatta, in the words of his critics, might have done relatively little compared to his predecessor Mwai Kibaki. However, data shows he never abandoned his ardent supporters. At least not in his first term.

In fact, there is a recurring theme running through the data we have put together: money seems to have followed the votes with Jubilee Party rewarding its voters in Mt Kenya and Rift Valley with dams, irrigation projects, electricity and hospitals.

Of course, most of these projects were built in these regions partly because they are the most populous  teaming with the most economic activities. For example, a good road is needed to quickly move the highly perishable tomatoes to the market. You need to give incentives to tea and coffee farmers because should they stop growing the crops, then the country’s reserve of foreign currency will reduce and that will make it hard to buy such critical inputs as petroleum. 

But other areas too have potentials that need to be exploited. The arid and semi-arid counties need abattoirs. They just don’t need hospitals, but a means to quickly get expectant mother to maternity wards when labour pains begin. Yet, compared to Central, Rift Valley and Nyanza, most women in Wajir and Mandera dangerously give birth in their homes.

As far as road construction is concerned, money seems to have followed votes with the so-called Jubilee strongholds receiving most of the cash for infrastructure development as at December 2017. Roads are not the only development indicators; some regions need a water pan more than a road, but roads could as well explain the difference in infant mortality between Central and Nyanza that Mr Obama spoke about.

Indeed, with all other factors equal, there is a correlation between the state of road development in different regions and the fraction of children born safely in hospitals. For regions such as Mandera and Wajir, where there was not even a single road under construction or repair, more children were delivered at home. Generally, such children tended to be less developed on all other frontiers too.

While 96 per cent of all the deliveries in the four counties in Central Kenya were in hospitals, for Wajir, Mandera and Tana River, it was an average of less than 50 per cent.

Other regions have not been neglected entirely. Road coverage is impressive in parts of Nyanza, Coast and Western, with the Government building inter-county highways to open movement of goods and people across different regions.

As of 2017, Luo Nyanza counties of Siaya, Migori, Homabay and Kisumu were the biggest beneficiaries of cash transfers for the elderly, with the four units receiving a total Sh4.25 billion compared to Sh4.39 billion that was forked out to the five counties in Central Kenya, according to figures from President’s Delivery Unit.

There is no evidence from the portal that Central and Rift Valley have been ignored in as far as dams, irrigation projects, and other public works are concerned.

However, the data on the building of roads shows significant improvement from 2015 when more than 75 per cent of ongoing roads projects by the end of the year were in Rift Valley and Central Kenya.

Mt Kenya region, for example, had the longest stretch of road to be covered under the on-going Roads 2000 Programme in which the Government hopes to cover about 10,000 kilometres through a public-private partnership arrangement over the next three years.

The main objective of the programme is to improve rural roads and train small contractors in the routine maintenance of roads using labour-based methods.

Of the 724.2 kilometres of roads to be covered, Mt Kenya counties of Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Nyandarau, Murang’a, Nyeri, Meru, Laikipia, Embu and Tharaka Nithi took up a whopping 546 kilometres, about 75.2 per cent of the total roads to be covered. A total of 15 counties were covered.

Back then, most of the projects in Mount Kenya region were at advanced stages by end of 2015, with the six counties - Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Laikipia and Kirinyaga - averaging a completion rate of 80.4 per cent.

Received backlash

Kuria who had received a backlash from former and current political leaders for his utterances backtracked and claimed his remarks were not targeted at the President but still went ahead and apologised.

“I have nothing but utmost respect for President Kenyatta with whom I have worked for a long time towards making Kenya a great nation,” said the MP who spoke at Parliament buildings in Nairobi days later.

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