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Shame of Kenya’s ‘richest’ road paved with potholes

By Anthony Gitonga | Sep 15th 2019 | 4 min read
Motorists maneuver through a section of the 30km Moi South Lake road in Naivasha. [File, Standard]

Moi South Lake in Naivasha is served by what could be termed as one of the ‘richest’ roads in the country.

The road serves more than 60 hotels and resorts -- most of them among the finest in Kenya -- which dot the serene Lake Naivasha shoreline.

But in the last couple of years, the road’s current status remind one of pictures of astronauts walking on the moon.

Potholes have turned into craters, motorists are left seething in anger and leaders have resorted to pointing accusing fingers at each other as the status of the road continues to worsen each day.

Jokes are told that if you see a person driving in a straight line along the dilapidated road, he must be drunk or under the influence of something.

Jackson Sencho, in a Facebook post, summed its status thus: “In Kenya, people drive on the left, on Moi South Lake road, motorists drive on what is left”.

Tender intrigues

Why it has been neglected is baffling as is annoying. The 30-kilometre road leads to more than 30 flower farms, the geothermal rich area of Olkaria, Kengen geothermal power plants, geothermal spa and the Hellsgate National Park.

The road also heads to Lake Naivasha, Oserian Two Lakes Industrial Park and connects the rest of Kenya to 60 major hotels and several game ranches. It is used by thousands every day.

Since 2017, its condition has deteriorated so badly that some investors, mainly in the flower sector, are threatening to relocate due to losses.

For years, Kengen was involved in minor rehabilitation works on the road but are said to have stopped a couple of years ago following “orders from above”.

Its rehabilitation is marred with intrigues, backhand deals and quest for kick-backs that have drawn government officers who are being accused for the status of the road.

Last year, Sh400 million was allocated for its repairs and a contractor identified, only for the contract to be cancelled last minute after the figures were lowered to Sh300 million.

Two months ago, contractors visited the road after the tender for its repair was re-advertised. But it was also soon cancelled on allegations that there was an error in the tender bids opening process.

Now, local leaders are imploring on the government to treat the road as an urgent matter. Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui termed it a critical road to the economy of the country, saying he has raised the issue with senior government officers.

The road lies under the national government, he said.

“We have raised the issue with the President and the Transport Cabinet Secretary as this is one road that brings in billions of shillings every year,” he said.

Naivasha MP Jane Kihara wants the President to personally intervene on the matter.

She said she has raised the issue with Transport CS James Macharia and the management of Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) several times.

“I called KERRA acting Director-General last week only to be told that there was an error in the tender opening process and that the exercise has to be done again from scratch,” she told Sunday Standard. 

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Naivasha branch Chairman Stephen Thuo said it is a shame that the government, which rakes in billions of shillings from firms served by the road, has neglected it to its current level.

“This is one of the richest roads in Kenya as the government earns billions every year from geothermal power, tourists and flower farms located along the route,” he said.  

Erickson Ouma, a manager in a flower farm on Moi South Lake, said they spend more than Sh100,000 in motor-vehicle repairs occassioned by the potholed road every month. 

“To an investor, this is a lot of money. Using the road is a drive to hell and back,” he said. 

Flower farms have raised the issue with the Kenya Flower Council and are hopeful that the road will be given the attention it deserves. 

But it is the thousands of commuters that use it daily that are feeling the pinch. Matatu operators have increased the fare from Naivasha town to South lake by Sh50 to meet the cost of repairing their vehicles. 

Fare increase

Enock Kipsang, a flower farm worker, said the increase in fare affects their livelihoods directly.

“The government is keen to charge people in court over tax evasion, but those who pay taxes on time like flower farms and hotels are not getting any services,” he said. 

David Gitau, a tour operator, said they have to answer many questions from tourists surprised by the state of the road.

“Majority of international tourists visiting the Mara spend time in Naivasha. The state of the Moi South Lake road is shameful,” he said. 

Crayfish Hotel CEO Peter Mehta said the poor road has led to a reduction of tourists. “Many of our customers are shying away from visiting hotels located along this road and its time the Ministry of Transport addressed this major problem,” he says. 

A senior manager from KeRRA and who declined to be named, admitted that the road is critical to the economy of the country to be neglected. 

“We have launched the process afresh and we hope the works will start early next year,” he says.

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