Northern Kenya to get Sh1bn tarmac road

Governors from arid and semi-arid counties say they’ll shed tears once works begin as the project is one of kind

In Summary

• Residents have suffered enough as a result of lack of proper road network

• Project is expected to start early next year 

Road construction going on in Wajir town
Road construction going on in Wajir town

The northern arid and semi-arid counties are to benefit from a planned Sh1 billion regional road.

Governors Ali Roba (Mandera), Mohamed Kuti (Isiolo), Mohamud Ali (Marsabit) and Mohamed Mohamud (Wajir) hailed the World Bank project, saying they will shed tears once works begin.

Infrastructure CAS Chris Obure, PS Julius Korir, Kenya National Highways Authority director general Peter Mundinia and World Bank lead transport specialist Josphat Sasia were present at the Public Works ministry offices during the signing of the MoU.

The road falls under the North Eastern Transport Improvement Project, which also covers energy, agriculture and water. The national government is focussed on spurring development in northern Kenya, a region that has previously complained about marginalisation.

Korir said the project is expected to start early next year. It will open up the region for trade and other investments, and ease the movement of goods and people. 

“This project is a life-and-death issue for our people. The earlier we see the first kilometre, the better,” Mohamud said.

He said he has suffered enough as a result of lack of proper road network. “Life will not be the same again,” the county chief said.

Kuti said Isiolo has had only five kilometres of its road network tarmacked since Independence. “When people come from Nairobi, they say they have come from Nairobi to no man’s land. The road will extend Kenya,” he said.

“That’s why you hear us ask when the contractor will be on the ground.”

The North Eastern Transport Improvement Project also aims at improving digital connectivity and socioconomic status of communities in the region. It will involve upgrading to bituminous standards part of Isiolo-Wajir-Mandera road, which is about 365 kilometres.

Isiolo-Modogashe road ( 190km) and Wajir-Elwak( 175km) road section will also be upgraded. Some 744 kilometers fibre optic cable will also be installed from Mandera to Isiolo.

Social amenities will also be provided at locations to be selected after communities have been consulted.

To facilitate detailed engineering designs for the project, the World Bank has given the government $10 million (Sh1 billion). Already, a significant portion of the road section has been designed and bidding documents have been prepared.

Further, environmental and social safeguards instruments and reports have been prepared by the Kenha and are under review by the World Bank. The Sh1 billion will form part of the Sh50 billion the World Bank has tentatively set aside for the North Eastern Transport Improvement Project.

Roba, who is the chairman of the Northern Frontier Counties, said the project is the biggest in the region since Independence. “It’ll have a major impact.”

Roba said it will cut the cost of transport to the region that has been neglected by successive administrations.He said a bag of cement costs Sh500 to transport from Nairobi to Mandera. “It will provide investment opportunities to the region.”

Also targetted is the war on terror, which Roba said will be solved in part by the legacy project championed by President Uhuru Kenyatta for the region.

“We’ll ensure there are no hurdles impeding the project,” Roba said, adding that citizens from the region have equal rights just like other Kenyans.

PS Korir admitted that the region lacks good roads.

"The idea is to see how the two levels can develop infrastructure for the benefit of the people," he said, adding that security will be prioritised.

Sasia urged the authorities to support the firm to be contracted. He called for improved security so construction goes on smoothly.

Obure thanked the counties for taking an active role in ensuring the project is realised.

(Edited by F'Orieny)