While some Central Kenya leaders are accusing President Uhuru Kenyatta of neglecting development in his own backyard — some of their constituents are blaming lawmakers themselves for failing to do their job.
There is mixed reaction in the region over the meeting MPs held on Monday in Naivasha, and claims that the region has been taken for granted neglected by Uhuru.At a closed-door meeting held at the Nyeri regional commissioner's residence on Thursday, the President trained his sights on the MPs after they presented a post-Naivasha memorandum
Those at the meeting said the President took on the MPs, accusing them of being preoccupied with politicking at the expense of serving the electorate.
In Nyeri, where President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday launched the Nyaribo Airstrip and opened Karatina Market, residents blame their MPs for underdevelopment.
Residents say that the the past year MPs have shirked their responsibilities and focussed on 2022 succession politics.
Resident John Kamau said that in the past four years, Uhuru has done well in other regions such as Western and Coast. compared to Mt Kenya region, his own backyard. .
Kamau and others say that the President has personally launched completed projects at the Coast. such as Marikiti Market, which was renovated by the national government, Kongowea Market, Dongo Kundu bypass, among others.
In Western, President Kenyatta has also launched many road projects, which they attribute to lobbying by the regions’ leaders.
Muthoni Wanjau, a grassroots leader in Nyeri, says the pace of the construction of the Sh1 billion Chaka Market is snail-like, estimated to be only 10 per cent complete.
Other projects yet to start include a cancer centre, the upgrading of Nyeri County Referral Hospital, to which the national government had pledged to allocate Sh3.5 billion, the Kieni mega dams and an ICT hub at Dedan Kimathi University.
Though she praises the government for completing Othaya Hospital and Karatina markets, she says it has taken too long to complete compared to similar projects elsewhere.
“As leaders from others regions sent delegations to State House, Mt Kenya leaders dwelt too much on 2022 succession politics, forgetting about development,” Muthoni says.
“In other areas such as Western Kenya, elected leaders have managed to balance local and national politics and I call upon local leaders to borrow a leaf from them.”
She attributes their failure to lack of unity, leadership and direction.
On the claims that Mt Kenya contributes 60 per cent of the country’s GDP but only 20 per cent trickles back, Muthoni faults the MPs, saying it is their duty to legislate on such matters.
“Such bills are passed in Parliament and I wonder what our MPs do there. They either don't attend House sittings or don’t understand their roles,” she adds.
Gacheru Wabandi, a Nyeri-based lawyer, says the President cannot be accused of totally neglecting the region.
"There are things on top of his priority list, such as starting Kenol–Isiolo dual carriageway construction, which will open up the region and expand business opportunities," he said.
However, Wabandi says more help is needed in the agricultural sector, especially coffee, tea and horticultural crops. Water for irrigation and industrialisation must be prioritised, he said.
“Though the elected leaders have a right to speak, they should assist the Executive in framing policies to address these challenges,” he adds.
The President is called to serve all Kenyans with uniformity and the Big Four agendas cuts across the republic and should be supported by everyone, the lawyer says.
“There has also been failure to resolve issues leading to collapse of the coffee sector. The milk production industry is also slowly declining after failure to revamp the Kenya Cooperative Creameries." he says.
Wabandi says MPs have the prerogative of legislating on resource allocation, based on population among other factors.
The complaints are the same in Meru. Residents say the leaders they elected are to blame for lack of development because they chose to focus on 2022 and position themselves for the next election.
Residents who spoke to the Star said the MPs who accuse the President of neglecting the region are engaging in 'semi-politics'. Historian and analyst Titus Murithi says the President has not neglected the region. "These jitters are caused by the March 9 handshake," he says.
Counties in Mt Kenya, Murithi says, have received a fair share of the national government allocation as provided for in the Constitution, and in some areas, the amounts have increased since 2013.
"Wherever the President visits with Deputy President William Ruto, they come with government goodies and promises they fulfil. In June we saw impromptu infrastructure development around Meru town and the county commissioner's residence was renovated," he says.
Murithi says there should be no public outcry since the President serves all Kenyans and the other regions also need development.
"Let them utilise the funds they have been given to bring development. Kenyans, and particularly MPs. are used to crossing the bridge before they reach it. We are not near 2022 to talk about succession. Politicians should stop toying with Kenyans. They might have their preferred 2022 candidates but voters might decide otherwise and elect their own favourites, as happened in 2002," he said.
After meeting in Naivasha on Monday last week, legislators argued that Jubilee has given the region a raw deal, despite getting overwhelming support during the 2013 and 2017 elections.
They claimed the region contributes as much as 60 per cent of the GDP, but only receives 20 per cent of the national budget. They mapped out a development matrix they intend to push.
In Tigania East, MP Gichunge Kabeabea, through the national government kitty and lobbying, has initiated projects in different sectors.
"We have new AP camps at Giithu and Kiguchwa. We issued bursaries, lobbied for four roads, whose tarmacking is ongoing — Mikinduri-Miathene, Mikinduri-Kunati, Kaliene-Mikinduri Girls-Thiiti and Thanantu-Kaguata-Mulika," Tigania East CDF manager told the Star, disputing claims of negligence.
Resident George Kaimenyi said politicians should lobby for development and not cast aspersions on the President, claiming he has failed them. "It is their failure."
He said those blaming the President are afraid they will not be reelected.
"My MP has done quite well. Uhuru's regime has launched many projects, including the Thangata Dam and Kianjuri Dam. He has supported education and built its related infrastructure, improved security by including KPR officers and built roads. We can't, therefore, say the President has neglected Meru," Kaimenyi said.
But Meru Majority leader Victor Karithi said he agrees with area MPs.
He said the Sh156 million Kiingirwa Water Project that was launched three years ago has stalled, and he wants to know where the money went.
He disagrees with those who want the President to remain in power despite constitutional term limits.
"He has himself said he will retire after his term is over. We support the President and as leaders, we ask those leading that debate to desist," the Athwana MCA said.
Timau MCA George Collabo said those claiming Kenyatta has neglected the region have hidden motives.
He noted that as a national leader, who must divide the national cake fairly, the President cannot fulfil all his pledges to Kenyans.
In his Cabinet, he has appointed two secretaries from the county — Peter Munya (Trade and Industrialisation) and Margaret Kobia ( Public Service and Gender Affairs). Other government officers from Meru are Sports PS Peter Kaberia, Ombudsman chairperson Florence Kajuju, KRA chairman Francis Muthaura, Titus Ibui, former Buuri MP Kinoti Gatobu and others are government officers from Meru." I don't see Meru being neglected. The President cannot do all things at once," Collabo said.
He said there are many ongoing projects, including the Kisima-Ruiri-Ntirimiti-Kibirichia road, which he called a huge achievement. Abogeta East MCA DMK Kiogora said the debate is pegged to Uhuru's successor.
Opinion is divided in Kiambu, where some residents share their legislators' concerns, saying Uhuru's second term might end and leave the area undeveloped. Others blame their local leaders.
Some residents accuse their leaders of only meeting the President for their selfish needs. They say they have been short-changed, resulting in unemployment, bad infrastructure and lack of business opportunities.
Trader Grace Njeri says the MPs are scrambling to have the Deputy President in their backyards in church harambees and constituency projects so that they can placate locals who don't feel the government's presence on the ground.
"Like here in Kiambu, what can we point and says this is what the government has done for us, despite having the first and fourth presidents hailing from this area? We have worked hard to pay taxes and contribute to the country's GDP but nothing is brought our way," Njeri says.
Others say national government projects are yet to be acknowledged either because they are yet to be completed or the benefits the finished ones are yet to be felt.
In February, DP Ruto said the state had set aside Sh50 billion to fund mega water projects in the county. Atop the list is the Sh24 billion Karemenu Dam in Gatundu North. Construction is supposed to begin next month; completion is expected by December 2020.The DP also announced that the government was working on the Sh17 billion Ruiru Two Dam in Githunguri. Two other dams are to be built in Kinale in Lari and Gatundu South.
Ruto also commissioned construction of the Sh1.5 billion Gakukuyu-Mataara road in Gatundu North and announced at least 400km roads would be tarmacked in the county.
Construction of the 26km Githunguri-Kagwe-Kimende road, which cuts across Githunguri and Lari constituencies, has started but progress is slow.
The DP also announced that Sh800 million would be allocated to rehabilitate the 23km Kwamaiko-Marige-Gathiru-ini road in Githunguri. “We will be back here in a few months with the President to launch other link roads estimated to be 50km. We will come to commission them because we already have the money to fund them,” Ruto said. Construction is yet to start.
In September 2017, KeNHA announced that in four years, it would construct three major roads in the county totalling 124km. The roads include the 47km Ruiru-Githunguri-Uplands road for Sh4 billion and the 25km James Gichuru-Rironi road for Sh16 billion. Also to be constructed is the 16km Western Bypass running through Gitaru-Ndenderu-Wangige to Ruaka for Sh17 billion. The Western Bypass will join the Nairobi-Nakuru highway at Gitaru.
Construction of the Ruaka-Banana-Limuru-Thogoto-Gikambura-Mutarakwa road is ongoing.
In 2016, then Transport CS James Macharia launched construction of 80km roads worth Sh5 billion in Gatundu South and Thika Town constituencies. Last year, the government announced it had set aside Sh1.5 billion to construct two bypasses in Thika. The President commissioned construction of the Thogoto-Gikambura-Mutarakwa road
The President commissioned the Gatundu Level 4 Hospital, which was later upgraded to Level 5. He also commissioned Gatundu Market and the construction of Theta Dam in Gatundu
Some residents complain that they are yet to be built.
Resident George Mbugua from Uplands in Lari says the government has not addressed farming problems.
He says tea and dairy farming are on the verge of collapsing due to produce hawking. Mbugua says many milk cooperatives have collapsed since milk hawking started.
Farmers prefer getting instant money from brokers instead of waiting for the end-of-month pay.
"Our milk cooperatives collapsed and others have been placed under receivership, because farmers pulled out. They want to hawk since they are paid daily. They save for themselves in different saccos," Mbugua says.
He also says most tea farmers in Lari sell their produce to big processing companies.
Mbugua says that although Kambaa and Kagwe tea factories, which are in Lari, buy tea from farmers, some farmers who prefer sell to brokers.
"If tea hawking is not controlled, these factories might close. These issues need to be addressed," he said.
Joan Wanjiku from Kinyogori in Limuru says the area produces a lot of horticultural produce but growers are frustrated by poor infrastructure.
And despite the commissioning of the 47km Ruiru-Githunguri-Nyambare road by the Deputy President in June, the contractor hasn't done much.
The Sh4.5 billion road is scheduled to be completed in four years.
"The area should be given priority in terms of production and population. We produce a lot of vegetables, fruits and milk but our vehicles keep stalling on the road due to its bad condition," Wanjiku says.
Area MCAs declined to comment, saying they might create tensions between the national and county governments.
However, one MCA who didn't want to be named, said residents are losing trust in President Kenyatta's style of leadership, saying he doesn't want any elected leader to be popular in the region.
"Kenyatta's family is rich and has controlled the country since Independence. I guess he is up to leaving the county, glorifying the first family, which is very wrong" said the MCA.
The MCA proposed that a team of leaders be set up to propel development and ensure problems are addressed.
Kiambu politician John Mukura said it would be shameful for Uhuru to retire and leave the county undeveloped, despite using billions to help Mumias Sugar and Sony Sugar.
"Our President has used a lot of funds to revive sugar companies. He has met leaders, managers of those companies and discussed their issues. But we have never heard what he is doing to promote tea, coffee, pyrethrum, milk and other industries in the region," he said.
Kiambu Majority leader Anthony Ikonya says their problem is with formula for distribution of resources. He says resources should be distributed according to each region's contribution to the country's economy. He argues that despite Central contributing a lot to the national basket, very little is channeled back, which leads to underdevelopment.
Residents want President Kenyatta to give more attention to the county's development in his last term.
They said the county is one of the President’s most ardent support bases but has not received as much support from the government as other counties. They gave him a chance to complete his projects but are now feeling sidelined.
Resident Gitau Mburu said the massive support residents gave to Jubilee was an investment that is making minimal returns.
“The President said he would give us more attention in his second term and we overwhelmingly voted for him, yet nothing much is being done,” he said.
Mburu urged the government to review the revenue-sharing formula to ensure areas with bigger populations get more resources.
Even as the government uplifts other regions, areas that produce more revenue should get their fair share of resources, he said.
Resident Ben Gachagua says Murang’a and the entire Central region have been shortchanged in revenue sharing, noting that it does not receive value for its revenue.“An area where lots of revenue is generated should get more money but we need parameters to establish how much revenue the region generates,” Gachagua said.
“I support those lobbying for more revenue to be channeled here. Areas like Turkana generate minimal revenue yet get more from the national government,” he added.
He also said lack of development committees at the subcounty level denies residents the chance to express what they want the national government to do for them.
Gachagua pointed out that the issue of revenue sharing involves devolution and should therefore involve the Council of Governors.
He accused local leaders, however, of using the issue as a vehicle for their reelection, saying saying the majority fear they will be voted out.
MPs say they want the government to fast-track the Kenol-Murang’a-Sagana-Marua dual carriageway.
The leaders who spoke to the Star, including Senator Irungu Kang’ata, Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Peter Mari (Mathioya), also want the government to put measures in place to increase tea and coffee earnings.
They want the government to expand the roads network, water and power connections.
“We cannot be shy about issues that concern our people. Other areas should be developed because it's the mandate of their leaders to mobilise resources. It is also our mandate to mobilise for resources to be channeled to our areas,” Kimari said.
He called government spending skewed, saying it spend about Sh100,000 per person annually in Northeastern, while Murang’a residents only get Sh6,000.
Last year, during the presidential campaigns, President Kenyatta and DP Ruto recognised the poverty and underdevelopment in Nyandarua, and promised to ensure the county catches up with others.
Uhuru, on his last day of campaigning at Shamata, said he has adopted Nyandarua as his county and declared himself "governor number one". But a year down the line, residents say, there is nothing on the ground to fulfil his promise.
MCAs joined lawmakers from the region and demanded the President give the region its rightful share of water, electricity, roads and agriculture development.
Among the promises Uhuru and Ruto made were construction or upgrading 455km roads to bitumen standards, construction of three mega dams — Pesi in Ndaragwa, Malewa in Kipipiri and Kinja in Kinangop — and distillation and reclamation of water pans across the county.
They also promised electricity to every homestead and urban street lighting, establishment of Nyandarua University, construction of a potato and vegetable processing factory, construction Ol Kalou Stadium and upgrading of JM and Engineer hospitals to levels 5 and 4. respectively, and appointments to state jobs.
“On the basis of these promises and declarations, the President pronounced himself governor number one of Nyandarua,” Ndaragwa Central MCA Mwangi Maitai said.
In mid-August, MCAs urged Uhuru to implement his promises to the county. They said most promised projects had not been initiated and were not captured in the national budget.
Maita’s sentiments are echoed by Uhuru’s cousin and nominated MCA, Wanjiku Muhoho, who says it is time the President walked the talk.
Njabini-Kiburu MCA Kiiru Gachomba says there is nothing to talk about or be proud of about Uhuru's presidency so far. He says water from Nyandarua passes through resident’s farms to be consumed in Nairobi, Nakuru and Baringo, while locals have no water, yet they conserve the rivers and catchments. The three mega dams promised by the government have not been captured in the budget.
Recently, Ruto launched the Engineer-Kirima-Ndinda road in Kinangop, but Gachomba says the road is of no economic value. Instead, he says, the government should have considered the Gatura-Naivasha road, which connects five counties.
The only road worth mentioning, Weru MCA Mbogo Mburu says, is Ol Joro Orok-Gwa Kiongo road, which connects to Nakuru through Dodori, which is almost complete.
The tarmacking of urban roads has not begun in major towns. The Ol Kalou road has stalled, as has construction of the Sh670 million county headquarters.
In agriculture and industry, Kinangop North MCA Wambugu King’ori, says the government has been taking residents for a ride. There have been pleas for the national government to bail out the troubled Midlands Processing Factory to no avail.
King’ori says the county has factored Sh100million in the current budget for construction of a potato processing plant, but there is nothing in the national government budget for it.
But pastor David Kiugu says the construction of Ol Kalou law courts and land registry show the presence of the national government on the ground.
Robert Kamande says Mt Kenya leaders should not think Uhuru is the President of one region, adding he has bailed out the coffee, tea and miraa sectors, just like he is doing with sugar and paper-making factories in Western.
Gerald Mutheithia (Meru), Eutycus Muchiri (Nyeri), George Mugo and Stanley Njenga (Kiambu) Alice Waithera (Murang'a) and Ndichu Wainaina (Nyandarua) contributed to this report