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Meru cautious about broken pledges ahead of Uhuru visit

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By GITONGA MARETE
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DAVID MUCHUI

By DAVID MUCHUI
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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s planned visit to Meru County comes at a time leaders are grumbling about unfulfilled promises running back to his first term in office.

Mr Kenyatta announced his cross-county tour to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) when he met leaders from Mt Kenya region at Sagana State Lodge last week.

But when the President finally visits the region, he will find leaders frustrated by failure by his administration to fulfil both the 2013 and 2017 campaign promises.

A cross-section of leaders lamented that during the 2013 and 2017 elections, they voted for Mr Kenyatta in the hope that development projects would be implemented but there is little to show for their support.

They said that when Mr Kenyatta eventually visits the county, they will ask for a commitment from him that the projects he promised will be completed before the end of his second term in office.

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Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Senator Mithika Linturi, MPs Kathuri Murungi (South Imenti), Gichunge Kabeabea (Tigania East) and Kubai Kiringo (Igembe Central) complained that some projects which were commissioned four years ago are yet to start.

Mr Linturi said some have stalled due to lack of funding, adding that the President has never been serious in pushing for allocation of funds.

“We are the ones at pains to provide answers to wananchi because we told our people to vote for Uhuru in the hope that the promises he made would be fulfilled. Today, people are blaming me saying I have failed to push for the projects,” said Mr Kiringo.

Mr Kabeabea said although contractors were on the Mikinduri-Kunati road project, construction had stalled because contractors were not being paid.

“There are projects that were initiated in 2014 which we were told could not proceed to tendering because there was no budget,” he said, adding that Thingithu dam project in his constituency had stalled.

Concerning the BBI, the leaders said they would give their views when the report is released, but maintained that they would only back a document that champions the interests of the people.

“We have always said that we will support it if there are provisions for devolving more money to the counties. As for now, let us wait for the report to be published,” Governor Murungi said, adding that they are “eagerly” awaiting the President’s visit.

Other than elected leaders, Cabinet secretaries Margaret Kobia (Public Service), Peter Munya (Industrialisation) and County Commissioner Allan Machari will be involved in preparations for Mr Kenyatta’s visit, according to Mr Dawood.

However, Mr Kabeabea, a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, said locals wouldn’t accept a document that proposes introduction of the post of Prime Minister.

He claimed that this was meant to ensure the President’s return to active politics after the end of his term. “Uhuru should retire just like Kibaki did. In any case, the former President delivered more projects than he has,” Mr Kabeabea said.

Speaking at a local radio station this week, Igembe North MP Maore Maoka said President Kenyatta was expected to launch and commission various projects in Meru.

He said his constituency was in the line-up for major projects including the tarmacking of Kaelo-Kamukunji-Mutuati road as well as Igembe North Water supply project that will tap water from Mt Kenya.

Several projects launched by the Jubilee administration in Meru and Tharaka-Nithi counties several years ago are yet to start, with residents resorting to protests.

Governor Murungi said there were 130 projects launched by the Jubilee administration, some of which had not started while others had stalled.

President Kenyatta launched construction of Meru Town-Mpuri-Kithaku-Katheri and Kithurine-Kariene-Kaguma-Gaitu-Giaki road (Sh1.8 billion), and Kunene-Kagaene-Miomponi (Sh1.1 billion) roads in 2017.

Although the contractors are on site, construction is moving at snail’s pace with Kunene-Kagaene-Miomponi road attracting several protests from locals.

While the presidency claims that Kingirwa irrigation project in Tigania West is 100 per cent complete, farmers are yet to get a single drop of water since it was completed three years ago. It was projected to cost Sh152 million.

The same fate has befallen Mwithanga irrigation scheme launched in 2016 and whose projected cost was Sh47 million.

Also stalled are water and market projects planned for Meru, Embu and Tharaka-Nithi under the miraa revitalisation fund of Sh1 billion allocated three years ago.

The money was released in the last financial year but only managed to sink four boreholes in Meru.

However, the Meru Town eastern and western bypasses (Sh2.9 billion) are complete while Kisima-Kibirichia-Kiirua-Ruiri road (Sh1.7 billion) and Kangeta-Laare (Sh650 million) are almost done.





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