Uhuru follows Kibaki script for backyard in final term

Ongoing earthworks along the Kenol - Sagana - Marua Highway expansion. The 84 -kilometer dualing project will cost Sh33 billion. [Photo:Jacinta Mutura,Standard)

President Uhuru Kenyatta is elaborately following the script of former president Mwai Kibaki of rolling out mega projects in his backyard heading into his last year at the helm.

Just like Uhuru, Kibaki dedicated his first years in the presidency for national causes and development, almost creating the impression that he was neglecting his backyard.

But the last stretch provides an ideal opportunity to chip back home and the Uhuru government is pumping billions of shillings in development projects in Mt Kenya just two years after Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria claimed the region was neglected during a 2019 New Year Party at Thika Stadium.

The president commissioned construction of the Sh30 billion Kenol-Makutano-Sagana-Karatina-Marua highway, 84km of the Great Northern Highway and Sh27 billion Mau Mau cluster network connecting Nyeri, Murang’a, Nyandarua and Kiambu counties, a stretch of 540km.

In Kiambu County, backyard roads under construction include 45km Mau Mau spur roads in Gatundu North and 30km in Gatundu South.

Solar system installed

Other road projects are Ndarugu River-Mangu (Bob Harris road), Gatukuyu-Mataara, Gatundu-Munyu-ini (Ituramiro), Thika-Magumu and secondary highway from Wamwangi-Ichaweri-Mangu, which is part of a major parallel highway stretching all the way from Kiambu town to Githunguri.

Gatundu North MP Anne Kibe called for construction of Gatukuyu-Makwa-Ngorongo road.

Gatundu Hospital, formerly a Level 4, has leap-frogged to Level Six and will now be run by the Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital (KUTRH) as a branch.

Gatundu overtook Thika Level 5 and the Kiambu Level 4 hospitals.

The referral hospital has already deployed seven specialised doctors and 11 nurses at the Gatundu facility.

KUTRH chair Olive Mugenda said the upgrade will include management and training as well as renovation and infrastructural works.

Gatundu Hospital has enviable infrastructure after a four storied complex was built by Chinese contractors in Uhuru’s first term.

Speaking in Gatundu during takeover of the facility, Mugenda said the partnership will enable residents to enjoy services of a national referral hospital.

“Takeover by the government allows us to divert the resources we should have used here to upgrade the Igegania Hospital to a Level 4 facility and we shall also set up more infrastructure at the Karatu Hospital,” Kiambu Governor James Nyoro said.

“Already bulk oxygen, laundry facility and solar system is being installed and will be ready for commissioning in the next few weeks,” he added.

Kiambu County Government officials said the public from the neigbouring counties of Murang’a, Nakuru, Narok, Machakos and Nyandarua may soon troop to Gatundu to seek specialised medical care.

The Kibaki government injected more than Sh30 billion in the final year to construct the Thika superhighway.

When Kibaki launched the super highway on November 9, 2012, he described it as a source of “national pride.” This was just five months to the end of his term in April 2013, and the road was indeed a perfect retirement gift. The road serves motorists from Central, Eastern and North Eastern Kenya.

Construction of a rural road network awed Othaya residents and the former president toured the project whenever he visited his backyard.

The road network covers Karima-Kiandu-Ruringu, Othaya-Gatuya-ini-Munyange, Othaya-Kihuri, Othaya-Kairuthi-Tambaya-Witima-Kagumo-Kwa Ngechu and Kagere-Ndunyu-Njigari.

Decongest hospital

Some projects were abandoned after Kibaki exited power, prompting Chinga MCA Kiruga Thuku to lead demonstrations to demand completion of Kariki-Gichiche-Mumbu-ini-Kagicha-Mairungi-Kaero road. The road is now under construction alongside Othaya-Kairuthi-Gitugi-Gachami.

Thuku said residents will demonstrate to demand construction of Kagicha-Kiguthu-Maironi-Karuthi-Githagara road.

Kibaki made several tours to his backyard in 2012, accompanied mostly by then Roads Permanent Secretary Michael Kamau, who later had a short stint as Cabinet Secretary in the Uhuru government.

“The last years under Kibaki were a development revolution for Othaya with the entire road network converted into all-weather terrain,” said Innocent Gitonga, a resident.

Othaya Hospital was also upgraded to Level Six and overtook the former Nyeri Provincial General Hospital, which remains Level 5, and Karatina Level 4 Hospital.

More than Sh1 billion has been pumped into the Othaya Level Six Hospital, which had benefited from about Sh700 million by the time Kibaki left office in 2013.

Notably, the government pumped resources into the facility in the former president’s final term and high powered delegations visiting the facility became the norm led by then Health Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o, PS Mary Ngari and the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chaired by Ikolomani MP Bonnie Khalwale.

Othaya Hospital Annex has since benefited from equipment and it was taken over by Kenyatta National Hospital from November 2019 and renamed the Kenyatta Hospital Annex.

KNH Chief Executive Officer Evanson Kamuri said during the takeover the hospital would serve eight counties in the region

It also has an Intensive Care Unit, specialised paediatric ward and a private wing.

“We are hoping to use this facility to not only bring KNH services closer to the people of this region, but also decongest the national referral hospital in Nairobi,” Kamuri said.

The level six hospital will be a referral centre for health facilities in Mt Kenya and Eastern.

It is now much different from the facility that had originally been allocated Sh501 million before the contractor reported having under quoted the project, forcing the Treasury to allocate Sh170 million more. At least Sh300 million in equipment went to the facility.

Commissioning of the Othaya hospital by Uhuru has been put off several times, with the latest being in March 2020, following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.