President woos locals with bag of goodies

President William Ruto speaks during an interfaith service at Mwatunge Grounds in Taita Taveta County on July 23, 2023. [PSC, Standard]

President William Ruto has promised Taita Taveta residents half of the revenue collected from Tsavo National Park.

Money collected from the animal park runs into billions of shillings annually.

“Taita-Taveta will get half of the revenue collected from the park and my directive will be implemented this year,” said Ruto.

The president was speaking during an interdenominational prayer service in Mwatate town, Taita-Taveta County.

Calls for peace, cohesion and political tolerance dominated the service.

Ruto said he had ordered the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to recruit more than 1,500 rangers. Counties that border national parks like Taita-Taveta will benefit from 40 per cent of these positions.

Ruto announced that the local community will be allowed to access Tsavo National Park to prospect for minerals.

He said he had directed Mining Cabinet Secretary Salim Mvurya and KWS Director Erastus Kanga to ensure that locals are given mining licences to start mining in the park that has been a preserve of few powerful individuals.

“It is wrong that the country is endowed with enormous natural resources like minerals, wildlife and water bodies but locals do not benefit from these natural resources,” said the head of state.

Ruto said he will officially open the over Sh100 million Gemology centre in two months’ time to help local miners add value to their gemstones and end massive exploitation from middlemen.

Further, the president said the second Mzima water pipeline will be commissioned before December this year.

“This Mzima project is a must-do. It will supply water to Taita, Mwatate, Voi and Taveta and improve food security and create wealth for employment and poverty alleviation.

"The first Mzima Springs project built in 1957 benefited other counties more at the expense of locals and this second one must benefit locals before it is rolled out to other coastal counties, “ he assured.

Ruto gave the assurance after Taita Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime said Mzima's two projects had for years been used by politicians to solicit for votes.

Mwadime told the president that the county was still water insecure yet there were enormous bodies like Mzima, Njoro Springs, Challa and Jipe lakes which had not been harnessed.

Following the goodies, elected leaders allied to Azimio said they had resolved not to participate in protests called by their leader Raila Odinga.

They promised to work with the president to develop the country.

The president criticised some local leaders for opposing the Finance Bill 2023 in Parliament, yet they want development projects in their areas.

MPs who opposed the controversial Bill and who accompanied the president were Peter Shake (Mwatate), Danson Mwashako (Wundanyi), Abdi Chome (Voi) and John Bwire (Taveta).

Ruto accused the opposition of giving youth money to participate in protests for their own selfish ends.

“The youth should not allow themselves to be used by politicians to destroy their country that Kenya Kwanza government is trying to rebuild. There is no other extra place Kenyans can go and Kenya is the only place we have,” he told the congregation.

“We cannot allow anybody to attack the police with stones, guns among other crude weapons. The police must be firm. I thank the police for being firm and professional in dealing with protesters,” said the head of state.

Ruto was accompanied by among others Mvurya, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Sholei.