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Conflict looming after Equator line is 'moved' at Ng'onyi

 Equator line signpost at Kariene Ka Moi in North Imenti Sub-county. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

The Equator imaginary line that divides the northern and southern hemispheres has literally put asunder a section of the Meru community.

The division has emerged over which area, between Gatimbi market in Central Imenti Sub-county and Kariene Ka Moi in North Imenti Sub-county, falls on the zero-degree latitude.

For ages, a prominent 'Equator' sign has stood at Gatimbi. Both domestic and foreign tourists have been stopping at the spot to pose for photos, believing they are at the centre of the globe.

However, the Meru County Government's Tourism department, in partnership with the Kenya Tourism Board, did a new survey and discovered the Equator passes at Kariene ka Moi at Ng'onyi, near Mwiramwanki Primary School.

Maingi Mugambi, who was Tourism, Trade and Investments Executive in former Governor Kiraitu Murungi's administration, had said after the survey, they discovered the imaginary passed at Kariene ka Moi, not at the old Equator market. "Using the GPRS system, we discovered it was not at the right place, so we worked to identify the correct position," Mugambi said.

This generated a hot debate on where the imaginary line dividing the earth into the northern and southern hemispheres lies.

A section of people suspected to be from Gatimbi pulled down a new signpost erected by the tourism department at Kariene ka Moi, claiming someone was plotting to cripple them economically.

 Tourists at the Equator line signpost at Gatimbi market in Central Imenti Sub-county. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Another signpost was erected recently at the spot offering a beautiful view of a vast forested area.

Mbwiri Mbursar, a property agent at Gatimbi, who is also a local, said they would not accept the zero line to be 'changed' for political, financial or other reasons.

"This sign was erected here in 1974 to indicate where the line passes. It used to be at Mariene, but after the completion of this tarmac road (Meru-Embu highway), it was moved here for travellers and tourists to see," said Mbursar.

He said people established businesses in the area to cash in on the tourism potential because of the Equator spot.

"School children and many other groups always make stop-overs here to take photos and move around and we are happy. But there is a lot of confusion now because they also see another signboard of the Equator somewhere else. We want the government to come out clearly and state the true position," Mbursar said.

He said there were rumours that some influential people were planning to set up a major tourist hotel at Kariene ka Moi. "If someone wants to put up an investment, they should do it, but they do not have to relocate the Equator line to do that," said Charity Murugi, a businesswoman.

But Douglas Mwiti said the county and national government did appropriate surveys and discovered the Equator did not pass through Gatimbi but at Kariene ka Moi. "This is the true Equator. People from Gatimbi came and burnt down the signboard put up by the tourism department," said Mwiti.

"This is a quiet area, but we are even happier because the centre of the earth is here at Ng'onyi, and it is going to attract many people here," said Frank Kirimi.

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