• Ombeyi residents want compensation for land targetted for an industrial park project.
• Governor accused of mismanagement of public resources and told to take full responsibility.
Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o has been criticised for using public funds to apologise to ODM leader Raila Odinga after he was heckled in Muhoroni.
The apology was published in a local daily in an ad that cost more than Sh300,000.
Raila was heckled on Monday by a group of residents who demanded payouts for 500 acres meant for an industrial park. They claim the parcel is their ancestral land and want cash before the project can start.
The residents carried placards ridiculing Raila's handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta. They unsuccessfully tried to cut short his speech after he was welcomed to address the crowd by Deputy Governor Mathews Owili.
Nyong'o said the protest was engineered by those keen to derail the county's development agenda. He is in Denmark. But some residents want the county chief to take full responsibility for the mismanagement of county cash.
They said on Friday that the apology was of no benefit in a county where many people are still in dire need of high-quality services.
John Ochieng said some hospitals lack medicines and other supplies, hence the last thing the county wants is wastage of its meagre resources on unnecessary adverts.
“Already, the governor’s press unit gave a statement on the matter to media houses. Stories were done and published. The same message was readvertised at the cost of taxpayers, yet Kisumu residents are facing numerous problems that need to be addressed,” he said.
K’Opiyo Emmanuel on his Facebook page questioned why public resources were being wasted. “Who are we pleasing? The people spoke,” he said.
Another Facebook user, Walter Angienda, said Nyong’o was serving the interest of ODM at the expense of the electorate. “He will not listen to the wise idea. Remember what happened at Thurdibuoro. Therefore, he must serve ODM,” he posted.
In the advert, Nyong’o said residents, not just from Muhoroni but all of Kisumu, are committed to development. He said this is inspired by his slogan 'Tich Tire' (Work is being done).
"It's regrettable that a small band of engineered naysayers have deliberately decided to resist development in the county as a whole purely for political mileage decided to embarrass our guests," the ad read.
“For this, I apologise. But we shall not be deterred from continuing with changing the economy of Kisumu for the better to please a few people.”
An NGO defended the protesters. The Transform Empowerment for Action Initiative (Team) said they exercised their constitutional rights and should not be condemned. Team leader George Collins Owuor faulted Nyong’o for trying to stifle the right to peaceful protest and freedom of opinion.
He said Article 37 of the Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly.
“It states that every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities,” Owuor said.
Muhoroni MP Onyango Koyoo distanced himself from the hostility that greeted Raila in his constituency. Koyoo condemned the incident, saying he will give a comprehensive report after investigations.
The legislator was away in Botswana on parliamentary duty. He supported the project, saying it will benefit residents but urged that public participation be conducted and landowners compensated.
Koyoo also apologised to Raila and said the heckling was regrettable and uncalled-for.
At the event, Raila said some people were out to embarrass him and his entourage. He had been accompanied by CSs John Munyes (Petroleum), Peter Munya (Trade) and James Macharia (Infrastructure). They also toured many government projects in the city, including the Kenya Pipeline oil jetty.
The former Prime Minister said Kisumu will be turned into an economic zone. He said Uhuru and two other presidents from the East African region will launch the growth projects in three months. Ombeyi in Muhoroni will be the home of the industrial park.
Residents said the land was given irregularly to the old Ahero town council after heavy rains pounded the region for months in the early 1980s.
They said they were relocated to safer grounds and years later the parcel was unprocedurally registered under the council. The property that belonged to the defunct local governments was transferred to the county governments.
The heckling triggered a melee as a section of the crowd attacked the protesters. Raila intervened to calm the situation.
(Edited by F'Orieny)