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President Uhuru Kenyatta finally makes Ukambani tour

POLITICS
By Allan Mungai | July 9th 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioning Uthiru-Muthua health facility in Uthiru. February 12, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes an elaborate tour of Ukambani today after previous postponements.

The president is on a development visit of Machakos and Makueni counties, which has been scaled down to cushion locals against risk of Covid-19 exposure. He will inspect key projects, including the multi-billion shilling Konza City in Machakos and Thwake Dam in Makueni.

The Ukambani tour comes after it was cancelled twice and amid talk of disagreement between local leaders over who would receive him. The president’s itinerary skips Charity Ngilu’s Kitui County, where he visited on June 25 for the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Protection in Museve launch.

In compliance with Covid-19 regulations and his directive against public gatherings, the tour will be an invite-only for local leaders.

On Tuesday, State House released a statement after a second meeting with Uhuru and local leaders, led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Ngilu as well as Senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Agnes Kavindu (Machakos) and Enoch Wambua (Kitui).

According to State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo, the postponement was to avoid making the tour a Covid-19 ‘super-spreader’.

“It is notified that whereas His Excellency the President remains keen to assess the impact of his administration’s transformative projects and programmes across the country, in this instance he will make a scaled-down inspection of identified projects in the Lower Eastern region,” Dena-Mararo said on Tuesday.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka inspects the progress of Tseikuru Technical Institute, Mwingi North. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

Kalonzo said yesterday the consultative meeting with the president agreed on phased visits to the region.

On Wednesday, Kalonzo toured Konza and Thwake ahead of Uhuru’s visit. 

He refuted claims that political wrangles among local leaders led to the phased visits by the president, adding that the community was united on development.

He said Wiper was still the party to beat in the region and dismissed Dr Mutua as seeking validation from the president’s visit.

“A few individuals are spreading rumours that there are differences and that it is the reason why the president did not come, but that is all nonsense,” said Kalonzo.

The tour will begin at Konza City near Machakos town, followed by inspection of the Kibwezi-Mutomo-Kitui road and conclude with inspection of the Sh43 billion Thwake Dam.

The dam is being constructed by China Gezhouba Group Company.The project is expected to provide water to the water-scarce region as well as serve as a 20 MW hydropower generating plant. It will also control flooding by regulating downstream flows to River Athi.

The water supply from the dam will provide 50,000 m3/day of treated water to around 1.3 million residents of Kitui and Makueni counties and Konza Techno City in Machakos. The government also plans to establish an irrigation scheme to irrigate 40,000 hectares.

Uhuru’s trip has brought to the fore the differences among governors of the three counties. Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana sardonically tweeted on Wednesday that Kalonzo had come out of the woodwork yet he has never visited any of the projects in the region.

“For the first time, Kalonzo has visited Thwake Dam ahead of the president’s Ukambani tour. Today he said he is John the Baptist,” Kibwana said.

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