Nakuru town seeks to regain its lost reputation as Kenya’s cleanest urban centre in an ambitious plan to attain city status.
In 2011, a UN agency recognised Nakuru as the cleanest East African town. The situation has deteriorated, but the county government plans to have the town. City status means more grants.
That requires a significant facelift, and sanitation must be among the top items on its agenda, Nakuru officials said.
The 2011 Urban Areas and Cities Act says a municipality qualifies for city status if it has at least 500,000 residents. Nakuru has about 300,000 residents.
In 2013, UN Habitat listed Nakuru as one of the fastest-growing towns in East and Central Africa. This was attributed to its location in relation to other towns, including Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret and Nyeri. This gives it an edge in business.
Roads and streets will soon be renamed, buildings repainted and drainage unclogged.
On Friday, Governor Lee Kinyanjui said his administration is preparing a bill to be tabled in the county assembly so the changes can be enforced.
He promised that a committee to be formed in the next few weeks will meet residents to collect views on Nakuru heroes to be honoured. The names will be announced on Mashujaa Day at Afraha Stadium, he added.
Residents complain that many streets bear English and South Asian names and want them changed.
Those cited include Landies, Pandit Nehru, Lower Bedi, Kalewa, Thura, Harvester and Kufanya streets.
They say only foreign names with significant attachment to the town should be retained. The residents want others renamed after freedom fighters. Rift Valley Council of Elders patron Gilbert Kabage welcomed the idea but called for deliberations before a final decision is made.
He said freedom fighters from the region should be prioritised. Kabage wants those still alive to be included in a committee that will be tasked with the work.
“The governor should consult old people. They are rich stores of the history of Nakuru. Young people don’t understand where we come from. We have names of people like Achieng’ Oneko, Mark Mwithaga, Mirugi Kariuki, Ibrahim Karimbux, Bruce MacKenzie and Sam Brandon, among others who did a good job,” he said.
Former mayor Samson Mwirigi and former Nakuru MP Wilson Leitich supported the proposal.
Mwirigi said former councillors and former MPs should also be involved.
On Friday, Kinyanjui told the Asian community to give a list of the people they want considered.
“The Asians supported white settlers who colonised us and should not be party to the project. Let them do business but don’t ask them to provide a list. That’s having neocolonisation, which we are not ready for,” he said.
Nakuru Business Association chairman Mwangi Mucemi said the renaming must conform to international standards.
“It should have a good sequence of numbers or letters, especially for interlocking roads and streets. This would ensure easy access and boost business,” he said.
Mucemi also wants the roads and streets upgraded and maintained well. He said potholes and broken lamps would demean the
Buildings to be repainted
Roads targeted for upgrade include those in Menengai, London and Milimani estates, those leading to the Nakuru Prison and the western part of the town.
Others are the Industrial Area linkage and Kaptembwa, Bondeni, Naka, Free Area and Mwariki estate roads in the eastern part.
Kinyanjui wants all buildings repainted within 30 days. Owners have up to the end of this month. They must be maintained in line with the beautification project, he said.
“The owners of buildings are required to ensure they are well maintained and that pedestrian walkways are improved,” a statement from the governor’s office said.
Director of communications Beatrice Obwocha said some houses within the central business district will be demolished so modern ones are built.
The rusty roofs of old dilapidated buildings that dot the town will be replaced. The town targets “modern tiled and coloured roofs and high-rise” buildings.
So far, Highway Towers, Shoppers Paradise, West Side Mall and Naivas Mall have greatly changed the town’s look. New establishments like the Sarova Woodland Hotel, the Alps and Ole Ken have come up in time to reap from the windfall that comes with city status.
“Developers must adhere to by-laws related to design,” the notice said.
Building owners will also be required to use proper garbage disposal methods and drainage systems to comply with the Public Health Act.
They must fix gutters for harvesting rain water, the statement said.
The notice signed by county secretary Benjamin Njoroge also requires all car wash businesses on road reserves to be relocated to designated areas within one year.
Taxi drivers will also be required to ensure their vehicles have a uniform colour and operate only from designated stations.
Last year, the Cabinet approved elevation of two more towns to cities. If Parliament amends the Urban Areas and Cities Act, Nakuru and Eldoret will acquire city status. They are the third and fourth largest urban centres after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.