Ruto meets Coast MPs, assures of marine jobs and settling squatters

President William Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi during interdenominational church service at Ukunda showground in Kwale County on July 30, 2023. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

President William Ruto met Coast leaders during his tour to discuss the region's development agenda contained in the Kenya Kwanza manifesto.

The meeting focused on creation of jobs through blue economy, ambassadorial jobs, positions in ministries and parastatals and the stalled settlement of squatters.

MPs allied to Kenya Kwanza and a few from Azimio attended the meeting.

Sources at the meeting held over dinner at State House on Sunday said the MPs asked for ambassadorial positions and appointments in parastatals.

They also asked for funding for the squatter settlement programme to address the question of historical land injustice that has eluded previous regimes. 

“We appealed to the president to appoint at least six ambassadors from  Coast region. We also asked for top positions in government, including heads of parastatals that are based both in Coast and upcountry,” said an MP who requested not to be named.

The legislators were led by Deputy Majority Leader of the National Assembly and Kilifi North MP Owen Baya.

Azimio leaders at the meeting included Lamu East MP Ruweida Mohamed (Kanu), Mangale Chiforomodo (Lunga Lunga, UDM) and Taveta MP John Bwire (Wiper).

The source said they were assured that historical land injustices at the Coast would be tackled conclusively by the Kenya Kwanza administration after they raised concerns that the budget did not indicate funds set aside to buy land from absentee landlords to settle squatters.

The MPs were also assured that the youthwould be trained on seafaring courses in their local Technical and Vocational Education and Training (Tvet) centres instead of Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa County, to make the course affordable.

“Although the issue of settlement of squatters is in the Kenya Kwanza manifesto, we were concerned because the current budget is not clear about funds set aside to buy land from absentee landlords. The president’s response was good. We were also assured that the youth would be trained in local Tvets by trainers from Bandari Maritime Academy,” he said.

The source said that MPs were concerned that ongoing recruitment of seafarers had locked out local youth because they do not have the necessary certificates. Many cannot afford the Sh35,000 required to get training for two weeks at Bandari College.

Those hired by shipping lines must have the Standard of Training and Watchkeeping (STCW) certificates to ensure their safety at sea.

He said out of the 4000 recruited to work on ships abroad as seafarers since 2018, the Coast region got less than five per cent.

But the source said that the president was keen on initiatives that would see mass employment of youth in sectors such as fishing, fish processing and digital jobs instead of positions for a few individuals in government.

Ms Ruweida, who confirmed attending the meeting, said they had ample time with the head of state, who wanted them to support the development of  blue economy to create mass employment for local youth.

“We discussed the development of fish landing sites along the Coast to create jobs for the youth The government is keen to promote the building of boats and ships to develop local fisheries,” she noted.

Ruweida said the president assured them that electricity would be extended to every corner of the region to boost fishing and other sectors.

“Lamu East does not have an inch of the national electricity grid, but we have been assured that this will be addressed to promote the creation of jobs in the blue economy and digital centres,” she said.

Ruto said the government had allocated Sh2 billion to the Settlement Fund Trustee (SFT) to buy land from absentee landlords to settle the landless.

“Sh1 billion will be used to buy land from the absentee landlords in Coast,” said Ruto, adding that he will soon start distributing title deeds in Coast.

Ruto announced plans for the region that included investment in the blue economy to increase its contribution to the national economy from Sh15 billion to Sh100 billion in the next three years.

He said he had given out Sh552 million to beach management units to help them invest in fishing and fish businesses.

He said another Sh300 million will be used to develop and equip nine fish landing sites from Mokowe in Lamu County to Vanga in Kwale County in addition to distributing boats and fishing gear.

“We want to increase the contribution of blue economy to the GDP from the current Sh15 billion to Sh100 billion in the next three years. We will eat our fish and not rely on imports from China,” he said.

Ruto said he would preside over the groundbreaking ceremony for the Dongo Kundu special economic zone in the next two months.

He said the project will create 20,000 to 50,000 jobs.

He said Sh16 billion had been set aside to construct modern markets.