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Why Nakuru residents hurry home when darkness falls

RIFT VALLEY
By - KARANJA NJOROGE | June 11th 2013

By KARANJA NJOROGE

Nakuru,Kenya:The phrase ‘hurry home’, popularised by an American singer, has found true meaning in Nakuru town.

Residents there are literally hurrying home when darkness falls, thanks to lack of streetlights in most streets in Rift Valley Province’s biggest commercial hub.

As soon as it hits 7pm, residents make an effort to desert the town for fear of being victims of muggings and other crimes. Traders also close shop and head home lest they are attacked. Residents are now blaming authorities in the town for their predicament.  About three years ago, the town’s council launched a street lighting project, then touted to be the answer to insecurity.   The project was launched with plenty of pomp as many hoped it would transform Nakuru into a 24-hour economy.

Soon after the lights were erected, traders would sell their wares in the town until midnight.

The lights, however, began to malfunctioned and then stopped working altogether. They have not been repaired since, but criminals have now found a perfect ground to execute their nefarious activities.

Stay late

“When you look at the lights during the day, you might think they are working, but wait until darkness falls and you may regret why you decided to stay in town late,” said Thomas Mbugua, a resident.

Simon ole Nasieku, a leader of street vendors, said they have raised the issue with county government officials several times in vain.

“It forces traders to close business as early as 6.30pm to avoid falling prey to criminals,” he said.

Nasieku said the issue, and others affecting the town once reputed as East Africa, has been ignored by authorities. Residents, particularly those using Gusii Road at night and early morning, have been robbed and maimed.

The gangs pounce on suspects and rob them clean.

“The criminals are swift. Once they identify their victims, they pounce,” Mbugua said.

Last year, a section of Nakuru residents demanded investigations into the street lighting project over alleged fraud. Nakuru Stakeholders Forum officials claimed there were plans by the defunct municipal council to irregularly pay over Sh40 million for the project.

“It is clear that no supply of electrical or installation of streetlights in all the 15 wards has been done to warrant payments of over Sh40 million from the Local Authority Transfer Fund,” chairman of the forum Wycliffe Oguda noted in a letter to then Local Government PS Karega Mutahi.He asked the Government to halt planned payments until thorough investigations were conducted.

Market products

Oguda said investigations should include physical visits to projects site to ascertain where installation was done. The defunct council has been accused of frustrating the project by failing to adhere to an agreement with implementers.

Under the arrangement, investors were to manage the streetlights and generate revenue from advertisers using posts to market their products.

“Most of those involved in crime are street children who break into vehicles and attack pedestrians,” Mwangi added, noting that if lights were installed, it would have been hard for criminals to operate. A county government official, Mr J. Ochieng, said plans are underway to transfer the project from the private sector to county government.


 

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