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Residents in the South Rift wait for Ruto to keep word on projects

Rift Valley
 Then-UDA presidential candidate William Ruto during Kenya Kwanza rally at Nyayo Stadium, August 6, 2022. [Samson Wire, Standard]

As President William Ruto approaches his first year in office on September 13, residents of the South Rift region are worried about the slow progress in carrying out major development plans worth billions of shillings.

Many of them had hoped that the projects President Ruto pledged during his presidential campaigns would greatly improve their lives once they were fully put into action.

These projects include large dams, roads, industrial parks, affordable homes, and modern stadiums. However, residents have yet to witness the start of most of these initiatives.

The Standard visited six counties in the South Rift region to assess the progress of the promised projects.

While attempts were made to gather current information, residents seemed disheartened and close to giving up hope that they would ever experience the benefits of these projects.

"We are still waiting for Itare Dam that the president promised us. That project has been long overdue," said Peter Cheruiyot, a resident of Kuresoi South where the project is located.

The Sh38 billion Itare Dam project, possibly the most ambitious undertaking in the region, aims to enhance economic activities in Nakuru County and ensure a steady, dependable supply of clean drinking water to over 1 million residents in Nakuru City and nearby areas.

The key elements of this project include a dam that stands 57 meters tall, a water treatment facility capable of processing 100,000 cubic meters per day, a pipeline with a diameter of 1.2 meters spanning 113 kilometers, and improvements to the water distribution system that will benefit more than 800,000 individuals.

Sewage management

Additionally, the project was designed to incorporate a bulk transfer tunnel stretching 14.5 kilometers and infrastructure for sewage management and treatment.

During his recent visit to Nakuru County, President Ruto gave the residents hope when he announced that the project would start 'soon' after his meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella at State House, Nairobi, in February this year.

The project, funded by Italy, was originally set to be finished by April 2021 but it faced a delay in September 2018 when the Italian contractor, CMC DI Raveena, declared bankruptcy.

Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika expressed optimism that work will restart at the site in the near future.

Another important project that has not yet begun is the Egerton Agro-City Park.

Government agencies had planned for the project to start in July this year, but so far, very little progress has been made, except for identifying the project's location.

 A section of Itare Dam in Kuresoi North. The dam project aims to enhance economic activities in Nakuru County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

On April 6, the president pledged to launch the project in the just-ended month of July.

"I have informed your governor that I want to come and launch this industrial park in July," Ruto told residents as he launched the upgrading of the 13-kilometre Njoro-Beeston-Nessuit road to bitumen standard.

According to details shared with the public by the Nakuru County Government, the Egerton Agro City Park and the KenGen Energy Park have been conceived as the county's future industrialisation hubs.

Once finished, these projects are expected to attract manufacturing investors and other business ventures that will create job opportunities for young people and enhance Nakuru's economy.

Affordable housing

But it's not all bleak in Nakuru County, as both the national and county governments have made progress in the affordable housing program.

Construction of homes at the Bondeni Affordable Housing Estate began in 2021 and is scheduled for unveiling by year-end.

A total of 605 houses have been built on an 8.5-acre plot in Kivumbini Ward, contributing to the joint target of 50,000 homes set by the national and county governments.

The housing initiative includes 45 one-bedroom homes, priced at Sh1.55 million each, 180 two-bedroom units at Sh3.25 million each, and 380 three-bedroom units at a cost of Sh4.3 million per unit.

"At least here, the national and county government have delivered their promise to the people of Nakuru. We are looking forward to the completion of the Itare Dam project," said Dan Murugu, a civil rights activist.

In Nyandarua County, Ruto's administration pledged to focus on three key areas: agriculture, water supply, and road improvement.

Over the past year, Ruto has visited the county six times to initiate different projects. His first visit was to inaugurate the Ol' Kalou potato cooling plant and its borehole.

This facility will allow farmers to store potatoes before they are brought to the market.

 Bondeni Affordable Housing Estate. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Nyandarua Potato Growers Association chairman Wilfred Kimaru termed this as a boost to the agriculture sector.

"Especially now that we are witnessing a potato glut, farmers are storing their farm produce here awaiting better prices. We cannot regret electing this government," said Mr Kimaru.

Governor Kiarie Badilisha said that the administration has distributed 10 out of 35 milk cooling plants.

Milk cooling plant

"We are working hand in hand with the national government to make sure that every ward gets a milk cooling plant. This will make sure that milk does not go to waste like in the past," said Mr Badilisha.

Regarding road projects, Ruto officially launched the Murungaru-Njabini road. More recently, he commissioned the construction of the Naivasha-Njabini road.

The Mairo Inya-Shamata road, which was initiated during the tenure of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, is currently in progress.

In Kericho County, local leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, said they would start projects in Soin/Sigowet constituency, where the county owns over 4,000 acres of land.

"The constituency has been marginalized for a long time, but we are determined to transform it economically through the establishment of special economic zones," Mr Cheruiyot said.

The Kenya Kwanza government aims to construct 10,000 housing units in Kevoko but the project faces hurdles after squatters living on the land sought legal action to halt their eviction.

Kericho is expected to benefit from several road projects, including the Kapsoit-Sossiot-Sondu road and the Ainamoi-Fort-Ternan-Kebeneti-Tindiret road.

Residents are also hopeful that a referral hospital will be built.

Kipkelion East Constituency MP Joseph Cherorot revealed that a 100-acre piece of land has been earmarked in Londiani Ward for this healthcare project.

 Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

In Bomet County, hopes are high among residents and leaders as they look forward to development pledges by Ruto.

Top on the list is the Sh20 billion Bosto water project which is expected to start this year and improve access to the commodity in the county.

Bomet Water and Sanitation Company officials said only 20 per cent of residents have access to piped water, and the hope is that the water project will increase access to more than 75 per cent of the remaining population.

Konoin MP Brighton Yegon said they cannot wait for the commissioning of the project.

"Hopefully, the President will come and launch the Bosto water project this year. As we wait to have our homes to be connected to the water supply, our youth will be lucky to secure employment opportunities," said Mr Yegon.

Job creation

The MP estimates that thousands of jobs will be created during the project and after it is completed.

Mr Yegon challenged the youth to study water-related courses in college, saying they have a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity.

But residents are running out of patience over delays to start the project. They cited broken promises by the previous government.

"I hope the President is not paying lip service. The project is late, and our need for water is so huge that it may not wait long," said Elias Tonui.

Mr Tonui said the number of pledges fulfilled by Ruto will determine the amount of support he can expect from the county in future.

Young people are also buzzing with expectations over a promise to set up a Sh100 million software hub.

The project, which has been proposed to be set up in Mulot, promises thousands of jobs to locals.

Former Bomet East MP Beatrice Kones says she is optimistic the project will help the youth tap their IT skills positively.

Ms Kones says that with many cybercrime cases being reported in Bomet, the youth must use their skills to build the country. "There are many jobless youth with skills that can be nurtured and put to good use."

Bomet East and Chepalungu sub-counties are also looking forward to improved roads spanning more than 100 kilometres.

Among the roads Ruto has pledged to tarmac are Merigi-Tegat-Kaporuso-Chemaner-Kembu-Longisa in Bomet East, and Sachora-Sigor-Kaboson-Chebunyo road in Chepalungu.

The two roads were left pending by the Jubilee administration, but Ruto has promised to revive them and ensure they are completed.

Bomet East MP Richard Yegon said the poor road networks in the region had meant residents could not easily access markets to sell their produce.

[Additional reporting by Nikko Tanui, James Munyeki and Gilbert Kimutai]

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