NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET?

A tale of two bridges and one death

Bomet protest after woman drowns while trying to cross river on makeshift footbridge

In Summary

• Construction of the bridge or bridges  -  each side incomplete and 50 metres apart - was launched by former Governor Isaac Rutto and his rival and successor Joyce Laboso, now deceased.

• Residents demand the 'two bridges' be completed as they connect two villages. The county says work will begin soon.

 

Construction of a bridge in Bomet has stalled, with each side incomplete and 50 metres apart, water rushing in between.

They are known locally as two bridges, each started by a political rival and never meeting in the centre.

A week ago a woman fell and drowned while trying to cross a makeshift footbridge parallel to the concrete structures.

The death sparked a demonstration on Wednesday by more than 100 residents of Kirimosi in Konoin who demanded the two halves be connected and lives saved. They ignored social distancing intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

They were angry they never received answers about the abandoned bridge and when it or they would be completed.

One side of the bridge was the initiative of former Governor Isaac Rutto (term 2013-2017), the other was started by his successor Governor Joyce Laboso (2017-19), now deceased. The current governor is Hillary Barchok, Laboso's deputy governor.

It or they were meant to connect Targambei and Kirimose villages in Embomos ward.

The 'Laboso Bridge' was to cost Sh30 million while the 'Rutto Bridge' was valued at Sh50 million. They barely got started.

The two abandoned structures of concrete and steel with wooden bracing have been abandoned, a curiosity for passersby - but not for residents.

During the protest on Wednesday police stood by as residents blamed the county for endangering lives by not c connecting the two halves.

Some residents said the bridges were started during the political rivalry between Rutto and Laboso, who defeated him in the 2017 polls.

MCA Robert Serbai rejected that 'rivalry' 'account, saying the Rutto Bridge was abandoned after audit queries were raised.

He said the protest was politically motivated by people positioning themselves for the 2022 General Election.

Serbai said the bridge started by Laboso had not stalled and Sh3.5 million has been paid to the contractor to continue the work.

Chanting "Barchok must go" and "Serbai must go," the residents said millions of shillings had been spent on the two projects, money that could have been used for other important projects.

Kiprotich Sang who led the group accused Barchok and Serbai of turning a deaf ear to their concerns and said neither had even visited the area.

“Are we going to continue losing people as a result of these? Why is the government not keen on coming out to explain the issues surrounding these stalled bridges?” he asked.

Reached for a comment, Roads and Infrastructure CEC Joseph Terer said the project stalled after the contractor who had been awarded the tender failed to complete it on time. So the project was awarded to another builder.

The new contractor moved in when the heavy rains had started and had to stop.

“Pouring concrete pillars was not possible during heavy rains that caused the river to swell," Terer said " But now that water has subsided, the works will soon continue."

(Edited by V. Graham)

 

The bridge started by former Governor Joyce Laboso.
KONOIN BRIDGE: The bridge started by former Governor Joyce Laboso.
Image: FELIX KIPKEMOI