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Trans Nzoia residents use floating tube to cross river

By Fred Kibor | June 20th 2016

Residents of Amagoro in Trans Nzoia County have been crossing River Nzoia using a rudimentary boat after a key bridge collapsed four years ago.

Their only hope of crossing the 20-metre-wide river is a dinghy made of an inflated rubber tube that is paddled using a spade.

The locals have been forced to use the floating contraption to cross the river, which borders Kakamega and Trans Nzoia counties, after the collapse of the only bridge connecting the two regions.

To the residents, floating on the contraption is a matter of life and death as it is the only medium that connects their village to the outside world.

It is a daily blood-cuddling experience for school children who board the rowboat to attend school. Patients also use it to cross the river on their way to hospitals and traders too to access market places.

Local leaders have engaged in blame games, with county and national governments shifting responsibility on who should construct the bridge.

Dangerous affair

When The Standard visited the crossing point along the river, hundreds of residents were on the river bank waiting to board the dinghy.

Edwin Obaga has been operating the floating tube for the last four years. He charges up to Sh50 per trip per person depending on the tide and the ‘fare’ can rise up to Sh100 when the river floods.

“It is a dangerous affair but we have nothing else to use. If residents cannot cross the river, then they cannot fend for their families or the kids cannot attend classes,” said Obaga.

True to his word, the dinghy lost balance and almost capsized when four women boarded it. A quick intervention by Obaga saved them from drowning.

The  majority of locals depend on menial jobs on the other side of the river for a living and to access the nearest health facility one has to float across it.

Obaga, who doubles up as a sand harvester in the river, said he was forced to suspend sand harvesting to ferry locals to ease their suffering.

“The greatest risk crossing this river comes when the tube is pricked and deflates and if the spade sinks into water. This might drown the passengers since many do not know how to swim,” he said.

Millicent Nafula, who was among the women that almost drowned, said they are treated to such dangerous scenes on a daily basis.

“It is good you (The Standard) have witnessed the risk of drowning whenever we board the tube. Many people have drowned in this manner, but we cannot just relax because we have to cross the river to get food,” she said.

Enosh Namasaka, an elderly man from the area, criticised leaders for using their suffering for political mileage.

“Our leaders from Trans Nzoia County, including Governor Patrick Khaemba and Kiminini lawmaker Chris Wamalwa, have visited this place and promised many things but nothing has been forthcoming,” claimed Namasaka.

Trans Nzoia County Director of Communication Milimo Maina said the governor went to the area to ascertain how grave the situation was and discovered the construction of a bridge falls under the national government. In the meantime, he is seeking support from well-wishers to build another bridge.

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