Ukambani Governors Resolve to speak in one voice to spur Social Economic and Political growth in the region.
The three Ukambani governors have resolved to develop a strategic plan for the South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc in order to realise the shared dream and desire to address the regional common challenges.
Speaking after their second summit meeting in Kitui today, the governors, Dr. Julius Malombe (Kitui), H.E Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos) and H.E Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) said the SEKEB will embark on developing the plan focusing on the key thematic areas that include strengthening the political bargain by speaking in one voice, promoting unity of purpose, infrastructure and industrialisation.
Other emphasis will be food Security – moving from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture, climate smart agriculture, agricultural shows in the region, trade partnerships, human resource – Youth, women and PWDS empowerment and ICT and innovation – completion of Konza Techno City, talent search and development, training, and skills development.
Others are natural resources (sand harvesting and management, exploitation of minerals and location of related industries within SEKEB, ballast crushers and Mining), healthcare – establishment of specialised units in each County (Kitui to have a renal unit, Machakos to have a cancer centre and Makueni to have a trauma centre), rural electrification and green energy, development of tourism circuit within the bloc.
Dr Malombe, Wavinya and Kilonzo Jnr said as counties’ chiefs they came together to have a collective and common approach in addressing the issues that matter to the people in the region. They said SEKEB is enacted through an Act that was passed by the three County Assemblies and gazetted. The Act gives the governors the authority to cooperate as counties and provides guidelines on the operations of the bloc.
“Since our last meeting held on 13th December 2022, we have initiated the process to operationalize the Bloc and smoothen its operations, we have nominated members to a Panel of Experts and eminent persons to provide technical, intellectual and professional advice to SEKEB”, Kilonzo Jnr who read the joint statement to journalists after the meeting said.
The governor said they formed two summit committees namely, Infrastructure, Investment, and Trade chaired by Wavinya and the other one on Climate Change, Environment, and Natural Resources chaired by him. The committees will ensure that the matters of trade and environment are given the attention and the support needed to actualize the goals and objectives of the region.
“We are finalising the establishment of the secretariat, which is expected to be fully functional within the 2023/2024 Financial Year,’ Kilonzo Jnr said.
The governors said SEKEB is developing agricultural value chains suitable for the climatic conditions of the region. They said they have started with beef production in partnership with an American investor in Machakos County. So far, the investor has set up a model farm and is testing different feed portions in the first phase. Once the piloting is successfully done, the knowledge will be shared with farmers and other stakeholders within the Bloc.
The initiative will provide opportunities to many people along the value chain that includes (but not limited to): feed production, animal breeding, transport, marketing and processing.
Governors Malombe, Wavinya and Kilonzo Jnr said in partnership with Africa’s Voices Foundation (AVF), SEKEB conducted Public Participation through a local Kamba radio FM station to offer citizens an opportunity to express their views on projects they consider to be of priority in their areas. A report of the issues raised has been shared with the leadership of the bloc and will be incorporated in county plans for consideration.
On the Umaa dam in Changiwthya East, Kitui Central, the governors said the dam, which stalled at the initial stages, has been taken up by the national government for completion on their request to President William Ruto to support the completion of the community dam.
They named a number of priority areas of focus in the next five years with commitment to prioritize developing water infrastructure and other people driven projects to change livelihood.
The SEKEB will continue to engage with the National Government to initiate and complete mega dams projects that provide water for domestic use, irrigation to enhance sustainable food security and generation of hydro-power.
They said Thwake dam which is a multipurpose mega project within the bloc, has its first phase 80 per cent complete. Once fully completed, it will spur economic growth and enhance food security within the bloc while addressing perennial water shortages. The three governors said they have lobbied for the completion of the Lower Thwake.
The governors said they have nominated members to the taskforce on Athi River commission to spearhead cleaning of Athi river. The Kshs.8.5 billion Yatta dam has been identified by the National Government among the dams to be constructed. The investment will spur agricultural activities along the 58-kilometre Yatta Canal and substantially increase the acreage under irrigation. Its completion will transform the region’s food security.
They said county aggregation centres and industrial parks within the lboc, have a competitive advantage of expansive land which is available for mega projects.
In collaboration with National Government, the County Governments within the SEKEB Bloc have budgeted for funds to match the National Government Fund for aggregation centres and industrial parks, for instance, the Kanyonyoo aggregation and industrial park located in Kitui Rural Sub-County which borders Machakos County. The centres and parks will spur economic growth while providing job opportunities for our youth.
The governors added that the SEKEB Secretariat which has been fully operationalized is being constituted. This Secretariat will be located at Machakos Town as is provided for in the SEKEB Act 2022.
The Secretariat will support and oversee full operationalization of the SEKEB structures. In addition the Secretariat will coordinate and actualize implementation of projects and programs within the Bloc.
On road infrastructure, the governors said they were aware of the impact of the Kibwezi-Kitui Road which has opened the region. However, the road has stalled at Kwa-Siku in Migwani, Mwingi West. They urged the Government to complete the road and the people affected by this road to be compensated promptly.
They asked the national Government fast-track completion of roads to the Lapset port of Lamu to Ikutha-Kanziku-Mutha-Kona Kaliti-Hola, Chyulluni-zombe-Endau Malalani-Twa Mbui-Hola, Oldonyo-Sabuk, Kinanie-Kangundo, Kenol-Kaani-Kinga.
The governors said SEKEB will continue to lobby for more inter-county major roads that will enhance connectivity within and beyond the Bloc. This will be actualized through strategically reaching out to Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA), Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KERRA). This is expected to spur economic growth.
Tourism circuit in realization that SEKEB hosts several game Parks such as Tsavo to the South, South Kitui Game Reserve to the South, Mwingi South Game Reserve to the East and the bordering Meru National Park and Nairobi National Park, they said they will begin lobbying the National Government for the bloc to start benefiting from proceeds of tourism.
The region is endowed with natural features and phenomena which include one of the wonders of the inverted gravity a portion of the Machakos-Mitaboni Road, Fourteen Falls, Yatta Plateau, Ikoo Valley and the larger valley that extends from Miambani to Zombe.
These form a tourist circuit which, if well exploited, will attract investments and create job opportunities through promotion of both local and international tourism.
Land being a very emotive and divisive issue, the three county chiefs asked the National Government and National Land Commission (NLC) to consult SEKEB on matters concerning extension of leases, issuance of titles, adjudication and settlements to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
They said SEKEB is planning to hold a stakeholders forum in October, 2023, at Thwake Dam. The choice of the venue is informed by the need to demonstrate the shared resources, values, challenges and unity of purpose.
The forum is expected to bring together 3,000 people drawn from the three County Governments within the Bloc, including the strategic partners, investors and international communities who share our vision and desire to engage and walk with us in exploiting our great potential.
In addition, the Forum will offer a great opportunity to call upon the national government to fast-track the completion of the multipurpose dams.
Malombe, Wavinya and Kilonzo Jnr urged the county Executive members from all the departments within the bloc to come together and harmonise cross-cutting issues in the CIDPs.
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