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Banga Beach: Former slave route turned investors’ paradise

By Isaiah Gwengi | June 4th 2021
Banga beach in Central Sakwa location, Siaya County was a former slave route from Winam Gulf to Uganda [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

The mere mention of Banga beach to any elder in Central Sakwa, Siaya County often evokes memories of the hundreds of slaves who died due to hunger, illness and exhaustion.

The little known-beach was once regarded as one of the East African slave routes, with sources narrating how slaves died before they reached places where they were to be sold.

Banga was a slave route from the Winam Gulf via the Trans- Saharan route to Morocco or Egypt.

“We were told that slaves who were weak due to sickness were thrown into the lake at Banga beach,” narrated Timothy Okoth, a local.

He added that hundreds of slaves lost their lives, but today, the place is a socio-economic hub, thanks to the construction of Sh434 million research complex of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology.

Workers are trying to put up final touches to research centre.

The project, which sits on 36.5 acres of land, will have three accommodation blocks, administration unit and a laboratory for naval sciences.

“We’ve already spent Sh140 million in establishing the project and it will be completed before 2022,” says Prof Stephen Agong’, the university’s vice-chancellor.

Tarmacked roads

He adds that once completed, the centre will require equipment worth Sh250 million.

The VC said that investors are already motivated by the project and that a number of services will be upgraded in the area.

“Home-stay tourism is likely to pick up as international students will be coming to the institution and would like to have a feel of the local community,” said Prof Agong’.

The project, which is set to revolutionise Uyawi, Nango and Lihunda trading centres, is being funded by the government.

A view of Ndenda and Oyamo islands from Banga beach in Central Sakwa, Siaya County. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard].

The local community from the larger Central Sakwa, which has for decades lacked tarmacked roads, is upbeat that with the project, their fortunes will change for the better.

Mzee Odida Buoga, a resident, says it has been difficult accessing the area for years due to poor road network.

Residential houses

“The road from Bondo is very dusty and the common means of transport is a motorbike.

“We hope this project will ensure improved infrastructure,” Buoga said, adding that the expansive area was a grazing field for the locals.

He noted that land prices have already shot up in the area, with investors now scrambling to buy land to build hostels and other residential houses.

Jackline Akinyi, 43, who lives in the neighbouring Liunda beach, concurs with Buoga saying the growth of the area has stagnated due to poor roads.

Last week, the government through Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) invited applications from qualified contractors, as it begins the upgrading of Bondo-Uyawi-Banga-Liunda Beach road.

“We are happy that the government has kept its promise of tarmacking the road,” said Akinyi, who is one of the hundreds of traders who travel to Bondo town every day to buy basic items.

While touring the project, University Education and Research Principal Secretary Ambassador Simon Nabukwesi said that the government is committed to prioritising such projects.

“We’re going to ensure that the facility is completed, equipped and put to use,” he said.

Even though the majority of the locals see the project as a blessing, others like Benard Omondi, 35, say it will only benefit a few.

“Those with money will put up hostels and other structures but for the poor, even access to education will be a challenge.”

Kenya Consumer Organisation chair Francis Orago said the announcement of the tender for the road was long over-due.

“I wish the government also included Nyang’oma-Wagusu-Sirongo road which also needs to be upgraded,” said Orago.


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