Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui has vowed that political baggage will not derail the quest for Nakuru Municipality to become a city.
He said the city status milestone will unlock Nakuru’s economic potential and no leader should oppose the move just for the sake of it. In September 2017, a Cabinet sitting approved the elevation of Nakuru and Eldoret municipalities to cities, bringing the number Cities in Kenya to five.
The Governor was reacting to sentiments by a section of Nakuru leaders led by Senator Susan Kihika to have the process delayed by ten years, citing unpreparedness.
“The elevation should be based on service delivery to the residents, which we feel is still below par,” Kihika told an ad-hoc committee collecting public views on the upcoming city status.
She was accompanied by Members of Parliament Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), David Gikaria (Nakuru East) and Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West). The 2011 Urban Areas and cities Act says a Municipality qualifies for city status if it has a population of at least 500, 000 residents, based on the last population census data.
As per the 2009 census results, Nakuru Municipality had 308, 000 people. It’s estimated that Nakuru has now surpassed the half-million thresholds. The Governor regretted that the leaders had brought forth unfounded claims and politics instead of working in unity, in their various capacities, to have all requirements met in time.
He challenged the leaders opposed to Nakuru Municipal’s bid to tell residents openly which other towns they want to be upgraded. The Senator had argued that the Municipality should first address drainage, waste management, congestion, insecurity, emergency response challenges before becoming a city.
“We cannot wake up one day and say we want Nakuru to be a city,” Kihika lamented.
While presiding over the signing of contracts by three new Chief Officers, the Governor said established Cities like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu still grapple with the said challenges. He said Nakuru will have it right from the start and he has initiated major infrastructural projects to ensure the Municipality meets the city status requirements.
The Governor said the County has secured Sh4.2 billion funding from German’s KfW Development Bank to improve on biodiversity and sanitation.
“We have also received Sh1 billion from the World Bank under the Kenya Urban Support Program for urban growth projects in Nakuru and Naivasha municipalities,” stated the Governor.
In March this year, the County placed an advert expressing interest to construct modern firefighting and a disaster management centre in Nakuru Central Business District.
The County Government of Nakuru also established a Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance department with a substantive Chief Officer. On decongesting the CBD, the County has secured an alternative 5-acre space for a bus park and advertised a tender for the same at a cost of Sh90 million.
“Once complete, no bus or matatu will enter the CBD. The parking will have all the necessary amenities. We will also work with the national government in establishing a police post at the yard,” he revealed. The ad-hoc committee will write a report with recommendations to be tabled at the County Assembly of Nakuru for a debate.
The team comprises of members nominated by the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya, Kenya Institute of Planners, Law Society of Kenya, business community among other professional bodies. Naivasha’s Maiella MCA Gathariki Kamanu told off politicians opposed to the move stating that it’s the Assembly that will have the final say at the County level.
“Underlying issues will be met along the way. We are ready to allocate more funds in the budget to address the challenges,” Mr Kamanu said.
If approved, the clerk of the local assembly will be required to forward the resolution to the Senate for consideration and later conferment of the City status by the President.
The long path to city status
When Mombasa and Kisumu were nominated for elevation to city status by the coalition government immediately after the 20072008 Post Election violence, Nakuru residents felt shortchanged because they believed their municipality should have been on the list.
Most of them felt that Kisumu was politically picked to calm the tempers at the time and to calm them down, the residents of the fourth largest urban center in Kenya were promised that their upgrade to city status would come 10 years later.
Nakuru would take that milestone together with Eldoret and true to the government’s word, in September 2017, the Cabinet approved the elevation of the two municipalities into cities under the Urban Area and Cities Act. Since the town was earmarked for elevation, the County Government has initiated major infrastructural projects to ensure it meets the threshold of a city Status with the County Assembly promising to quickly pass the necessary projects to make this dream come true.
Some of the infrastructural projects include expanding the Sewerage system which was installed in 1960’s when the town population was barely 10,000 people, improving the drainage system and procuring a new dumping site. Governor Lee Kinyanjui says his administration has awarded a Sh4.2 billion sanitization project to expand the sewerage system.
“Development is a deliberate effort by the people to improve an area and we are getting there, even Nairobi and Mombasa and Kisumu cities have challenges and the respective county governments are working around them,” said the governor.
Other projects that the county has taken up in preparation for the new status is the construction of an international airport at Lanet and the refurbishment of Afraha Stadium into an international sports complex.
The construction of an airport has been marred by a myriad of problems after the land set aside for its establishment was said to be on a migratory birds’ path.
The idea was first mooted in 2004, land bought in pipeline area on the outskirts of the town and Sh100 million construction money allocated by the Kenya Airports Authority but the project could not take off after NEMA refused to approve it on environmental grounds.
As if that was not enough, the 642acre piece of land set aside for the airport was grabbed while hundreds of Internally Displaced persons bought and settled in a piece right next to it in a slum like setting.
In view of these problems and to hasten the construction of the allimportant infrastructure, Governor Kinyanjui initiated talks with the Kenya Defense Forces for the surrender of the Lanet Military Airstrip.