By BONIFACE MULU
The advent of the long rains has brought most welcome relief to our people because it will alleviate the biting shortages of water that we experienced in the last four months, the Kitui County Governor Charity Kaluki Ngilu has said.
“Since the dry season set in from July, our County Water Directorate has trucked water to the learning institutions and community water points in some of the hardest hit areas in the county,” the governor added. Ngilu said that their county’s water trucking programme which followed up on their distribution of some 1,600 water tanks to schools and community water points in the last financial year helped to save many institutions from imminent closure due to shortage of water.
The governor made the remarks in a speech read for her by her deputy, Dr. Gideon Wathe Nzau during this year’s (56th) Mashujaa Day celebrations held at the Kitui County Stadium where Nzau was the chief guest at the function. “As the rainy season begins we all need to be more keen on rain water harvesting so that we can collect and store enough of the precious commodity for future use,” Ngilu said.
We also need to remind ourselves on the need to expedite preparation of our farms and to plant early so that we can take full advantage of the rains which as we have seen previously, may not last very long, she added. “On our part, my Agriculture, Water and Livestock Development Ministry has stepped up assistance to vulnerable farmers whom we are helping with subsidised ploughing at only 1,000 shillings per acre.
We have deployed our full fleet of 40 tractors in all the county’s 40 wards and as at now we have ploughed a total of 1,469 acres across the County,” Ngilu said. We project that we will be able to achieve a total of 4,500 acres by the end of the current planting season, she said, adding that the Agriculture Ministry is also implementing the Farm Ponds Programme under the NARGIP Project, which will assist more farmers to construct water pans for collection of run off water on their farms and use it for production of crops and pasture.
“We must also remain aware of the hazards that often accompany rains in our region, particularly the danger of swollen rivers. We regret that just last Thursday we woke up to the sad news that four of our fellow citizens had lost their lives while driving across a swollen river in Matinyani Location, Matinyani District.
We take this opportunity to condole with their families, the governor said. To avoid incidents like these we must caution all people to never attempt to cross swollen rivers, no matter the urgency, Ngilu added. Another critical issue that is affecting our people is that of peace and security in the areas of our county bordering the Tana River County.
It is highly regrettable that even as we celebrate the Mashujaa Day, hundreds of our people in Mutomo, Kyuso and Mwingi East Districts within the county are displaced from their homes following banditry attacks by armed herders who cross over into our county from Tana River, Garissa and Wajir Counties. As you are aware, on September 30, 2019 I led a delegation of Members of Parliament from Kitui County to a meeting with the Interior and Coordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Fred Matiangi together with Governors Ali Korane ( Garissa County) and Dhadho Godhana ( Tana River County).
“We agreed at this meeting that the national government flushes out with immediate effect all the camel herders who have illegally occupied the Kitui South and Mwingi North Game Reserves as well as those who have invaded private ranches, farms and community lands in Kitui County,” Ngilu said.
The governor said the order also specifically requires all people carrying out illegal activities inside the game reserves to vacate immediately. “I wish to thank the County Security Committee under the leadership of Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego for effecting this order with the urgency it deserved.
We greatly appreciate the support given by various government security arms in helping to reduce the menace of banditry in the affected areas of our county,” the Kitui County Governor said.
However, let me reiterate that evicting the herders and farmers who illegally occupied the game reserves is not enough. There must be further and more long term measures to secure the areas around our common border with Tana River County.
The Interior Ministry needs to order for immediate disarmament of all persons in the neighbouring counties who are bearing illegal firearms. Just yesterday our people in Kavaani Village, Ngomeni Location, laid to rest one person who had been shot dead and his colleagues seriously injured by bandits. This wanton loss of life is not acceptable and the national government must bring it to an end, Ngilu added.
The governor said the National Police Service should increase security patrols along the boundary with Tana River County and also establish a permanent security presence inside and around the Kitui County’s game reserves which have been used as staging grounds to plan attacks against the surrounding communities.
The people who have erected structures at Mwanzele Village in Nguni Location of Mwingi Central District and in Kalalani and Ililuni Villages in Mutha Location in Mutomo District without authorisation by the Kitui County government must be made to vacate those places immediately.
These illegal townships are the centres used by bandits to plan and facilitate bandit attacks. The security checkpoint at Ukasi Market in Ukasi Location, Mwingi Central District should be moved to the Katumba area on the boundary between the Kitui and Tana River Counties.
It creates the false impression that the Ukasi Location is the border point, while the Kenya’s Districts and Provinces Act of 1992 clearly identifies the Katumba area as the border between Kitui and Tana River Counties.
The national government should immediately deploy surveyors to re-establish the boundary between Kitui and Tana River Counties as it is defined in the Districts and Provinces Act of 1992. “My Government is aware that the ongoing security operation has displaced hundreds of families, some of whom are now camped in makeshift structures in deplorable conditions. In the next few weeks my office together with the County Public Service Management and Administration Ministry will reach out to give assistance to the most affected families,” the governor said.
“I wish to reiterate that we have absolutely no problem with the members of the Somali community living and working in Kitui County, she said.
“In fact, we have hundreds of traders from the North Eastern Kenya region who have set up shops in our major towns like Kitui and Mwingi and others who visit weekly to trade in livestock markets like the Kaningo, Mutha and Mwingi,” Ngilu said.
She said that her government has licensed and facilitated these business people to trade and live in Kitui County. Therefore the claims recently spread around that I was evicting the Somali Community from Kitui County is baseless propaganda.
“I also take this opportunity to urge all our people inside and outside Kitui County to live harmoniously with their neighbours and hosts and to always obey the laws of the land, the governor added. “Apart from the operations to increase security in our county, I wish to thank the national government under the leadership of His Excellency the President Uhuru Kenyatta for the great progress we have seen in the implementation of major national government projects in our county,” she said.
We are particularly gratified for the pace and progress of the tarmacking of the Kibwezi – Kitui Road which is certain to reach Kitui Town in the next few months, Ngilu said.
We also look forward to the commencement of the Kabati – Migwani – Mbondoni road section which will open up the Kitui West and Mwingi West Districts for commerce and provide a more direct link to the northern part of our county, the governor added.
Ngilu said they are equally gratified for the progress of the Thwake Multipurpose Dam whose implementation is right on schedule.
The dam serves all the three Ukambani counties namely Kitui, Machakos and Makueni. “These two projects have provided thousands of direct and indirect jobs to our people and we are grateful,” she said.
As we look forward to the completion of these important projects, I want to appeal to all the people of Kitui County to plan well in advance on what we must do to maximise the potential for their economic productivity in our county, the governor added.
Ngilu said the Kitui County should be a centre for production and not just consumption. “The wealth is generated through the application of the factors of production which we are lucky to have an abundance of in our county,” she added.
The Kibwezi – Kitui Road will give us access to markets and opportunities far beyond our borders and it is therefore upon us to produce goods and commodities that we can sell in these markets and earn income, she went on to say.
The governor said that in the preparation for the increase of commercial activity in their county, they have started an ambitious urban development programme which she is going to transform Kitui and Mwingi Towns into modern commercial hubs. “You will recall that in June 2018 I granted a Municipal Charter to the Kitui Town, pursuant to the provisions of the Urban Areas and Cities Act of 2011 and the National Urban Development Policy.
Kitui Town therefore became the first municipality in Kitui County under the Kenya’s 2010 Constitution,” Ngilu said. We appointed a 9-member Municipal Board which has then developed an Integrated Strategic Urban Development Plan for the Municipality, she said.
“As a result of these governance reforms, the municipality attracted funding from the World Bank to the tune of 234 million shillings for the 2018-2019 financial year under the Kenya Urban Support Programme.
We have applied part of this money to improve transport and trade infrastructure within the central business area and also improve the water supply within the municipality,” Ngilu said.
We are constructing a modern multi- storied municipal market opposite the Kitui bus park which is going to accommodate all the vendors who are currently trading their wares on open pavements and side streets within the town, the governor added.
“This will decongest our town and make Kitui more attractive for investment while giving our small traders a decent and secure place to do business from,” Ngilu said. And in his speech after reading the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech, Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego highly thanked the Kitui County people for maintaining peace in the county.
“Really the area is peaceful and we want that peace to continue prevailing in the area,” the County Commissioner said.
He asked the locals to report suspicious criminals to the relevant authorities including the police for legal actions to be taken against them before they commit crimes. “So let us work together for the good of the security in our county,” the administrator said. “Crime is a very bad thing.
Every time we want to have a county where there are no criminal elements,” he further said. And he asked the locals not to politicize the security matters “because if we do so we will not succeed in our security management efforts.” Ondego announced that the drug dealers who are selling narcotic drugs to the children in the county are being netted up by the authorities.
He warned that the culprits will never be allowed to destroy the children there. “If you are a drug dealer, we want you to know that we are at your doorstep. We are to arrest you,” the official warned.
On the ongoing heavy rains in the county, the County Commissioner warned the locals about the dangers that may be caused by the rains including floods.
He disclosed that the Kitui County is number three on the list of the Kenya’s counties that are currently experiencing very heavy rains by the country’s weather experts.
Ondego asked the locals to take care of the children for them not to go to the rivers during this time. He also asked them not to attempt crossing the swollen rivers there. “It is very dangerous,” the County Commissioner warned.
Ondego said the local people may get a very good harvest for the rains have started too early in the region. The County Commissioner asked the locals to plant plenty of trees during the current rains season for the good of the environment conservation. “It is the government’s policy to have a 10 per cent national forest cover in the country,” Ondego said.
Kitui County’s forest cover stands at 7 per cent and the Kenya’s national forest cover is 7.2 per cent. Ondego said that all the civil servants in Kenya are protected by the law. And he warned that he as the County Commissioner will never protect any errant civil servant in Kitui County.