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Are Cabinet secretaries preparing the ground for Uhuru’s Mt Kenya tour?

CENTRAL
By Wainaina Ndung'u | June 14th 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta could make his long-delayed visit to his Central Kenya backyard as early as next month, according to a frenzy of activities on the ground.

This week, the central counties of Murang’a and Nyeri have received three Cabinet Secretaries inspecting the progress of development projects that the president is said to be keen to launch.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia on Friday toured the route of the proposed Sh30 billion 540-kilometre Mau Mau Cluster Roads in Murang’a and Nyeri counties.

The CS, who was joined by at least seven MPs and Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga in the visit, said the president was keen to launch the key electioneering promise to his backyard.

There has also been a flurry of activities around the Sh5 billion rehabilitation of the moribund metre gauge railway between Nairobi and Nanyuki, and the president was reliably expected to be on the inaugural ride that will commission the project.

According to Macharia, the president was instrumental in initiating the Mau Mau road project whose construction started last month and which will create a second artery designed to connect four counties in central Kenya region with Naivasha Dry Port.

“The Mau Mau road project at Sh40 billion will be launched by the president after the necessary preparations are made,” said Macharia at Mioro market in Murang’a on Friday, giving the clearest hint that Uhuru may be headed to the region soon.

On Thursday, Agriculture CS Peter Munya was also in Murang’a, topping up visits to Meru and Kirinyaga in the last one month.

Munya, who addressed coffee leaders at Kenol market in Murang’a, said President Kenyatta was fully behind revival of the coffee sector. At Meru and Sagana in Kirinyaga, he inspected New Kenya Planters Co-operative Union (KPCU) factories which are being rehabilitated as part of the revival of the collapsed KPCU.

Water projects

Meanwhile, Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Cecily Kariuki on Friday toured Mulika Irrigation project in Mugoiri with National Irrigation Authority Chief Executive Officer Gitonga Mugambi. The Sh253 million project is 78 per cent complete and designed to be completed in October.

Kariuki also visited the Northern Water Collector Tunnel (NWCT) being implemented by Athi Water Service Board with World Bank support.

Two weeks ago, she visited Nyeri County and inspected work on the Sh261 million Riamukurwe irrigation and domestic water supply scheme in Nyeri town constituency and the Sh1.2 billion Sagana river regeneration project which will now be re-structured to benefit part of semi-arid Kieni area.

The Sagana River project was initially intended to supply water for irrigation and domestic use to 30,000 Mathira residents.

The president may also swing off to tour the completed Othaya Level 6 Hospital which is modelled as the regional teaching and referral hospital and centre of excellence for Mt Kenya.

At the Sh20 billion Thiba Dam project in Kirinyaga, Water PS Joseph Irungu said two weeks ago that the contractor is under instruction to hasten the project which had stalled over financial hitches.

“The contractor is working in two shifts. Rice farmers need additional water supply so we can increase harvesting to two seasons in a year, said Irungu.

Earlier, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho was in Kirinyaga over construction of a Sh15 billion Kemri station in the county that had caused a standoff between embattled governor Ann Waiguru and the research institute over possession of a 100 -acre piece of land where the new station will be built.

Political observers believe the president is planning to fulfil a tour he has postponed in the last year due to a combination of factors, the most dominant which has been the crowded presidential diary.

At a meeting for Mt Kenya leaders at the Sagana River State Lodge in Nyeri last November, the president had promised to kick off the tours in January starting with Meru, but it has never happened.

At the time, the president had said he wanted to go out and explain himself to his backyard especially on matters of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

It is believed to be the same objective that is bringing him to the region.

The challenge is the ongoing Covid-19 that will prevent him from meeting crowds during his visit.

Senate Chief Whip Irung’u Kang’ata, however, says though Uhuru is passionate about the ongoing projects, a visit is only likely to happen after the country is reopened from the Covid-19 restrictions. He estimates it will be around August or September.

“He is fast tracking completion of major infrastructure projects on roads and water. We expect that the Mau Mau road will open a new tourism circuit,” Kang’ata said.

New centres

“The Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line revival is a project dear to the president and we reckon it will make the substations at Narumoru, Chaka, Karatina, Sagana and Maragua the new centres of growth in the region,” Kenya Railways director James Mithika said.

He added that the fact the new railway line will reduce the cost of transporting export bound tea and coffee produce from Sh24,000-a-tonne-a-kilometre to Sh2,900-a-tonne-a-kilometre underlines the economic potential it offers for the region.

Last week Kenya Railway Corporation demolished all temporary structures built along the line in Karatina to pave way for its rehabilitation.

Kenya Railways Managing Director Phillip Mainga said they were rushing to complete the overdue works by July. We are also happy that the president is planning to visit the region when it is speaking one language of securing his legacy,” added Mithika.

Uhuru’s hardline allies in the backyard believe he is now on top of things with key supporters of Deputy President William Ruto starting to show signs of dissipating.

More Ruto allies are in the next week expected to visit the offices of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the first step of their sanitization journey to return under Uhuru’s umbrella.

 

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