• Lovers and drinkers throng the ground once earmarked for stadium construction
• Governor blames stagnation on land dispute; critics say he abandoned the project
A pungent smell welcomes you to the ground that was meant to be Kabarnet Stadium. It played host to UhuRuto campaigns but is now a den of sleaze after its construction stalled two years ago.
It was around 2pm when a bunch of drunken youth ran away immediately they spotted us entering the gate of the dilapidated facility in Baringo county.
“Sorry, bro. We thought you were police officers,” one identifying as Kemboi said as they stopped in their tracks. Their fear of arrest faded once they saw us holding cameras.
Kemboi then came forward to wave at the journalists. In his right hand was a quarter-full small bottle of unbranded second-generation liquor.
“Welcome, we just found this idle place cool, silent and good to relax and take our stuff. Nothing much but you can just feel free to walk around and feed your eyes,” he said.
Before being interrupted, the group of young men and women were seated, chatting and sharing the bottles of illicit brews, while cracking jokes under the shade inside the uncompleted public stadium.
The group comprised hawkers, barmaids and waiters who lost their jobs after Covid-19 struck the country in March.
Among them also were boda boda riders, while others worked as luggage lifters at the open-air market in Kabarnet town.
Drunkards take advantage of the hidden corners, culverts and the bushes around the stadium to have sex even in broad daylightKemboi, resident
Just a few steps next to them were hundreds of littered sachets of used and unused condoms, indicating clearly some sought of prostitution activities are taking place inside the abandoned field.
“Drunkards take advantage of the hidden corners, culverts and the bushes around the stadium to have sex even in broad daylight,” Kemboi said.
He said he has never done it himself but has bumped into a number of his colleagues several times in the act.
Apart from sex escapades, the deserted arena is also filthy, with animal and human waste and bottles of second generation liquour littered around it.
Several gullies are already forming at the disintegrated pitch. The culverts are broken and blocked, while the weakened cemented blocks around the fence are falling down.
Cows, sheep and goats were grazing in the distance, while the other corners were occupied by lovebirds seated and chatting.
Civil society activist Isaiah Biwott said the situation is getting out of hand. “Immorality is rife inside the stalled stadium, and if you think it is a lie, then follow me I show you something,” he said.
He pointed at a man and a woman busy kissing behind the dilapidated fence of the stalled stadium.
The activist, who is based in Kabarnet town, called for the immediate banning and closing off of the facility so nobody can enter and idle inside.
The ground is situated on a seven-acre piece of land located down the bottom of Seguton, a magnificent hill near Bondeni estate and next to Kabarnet town, the county headquarters.
Apart from holding sporting and social events, the neglected ground was used to hold political rallies and local events attended by, among other prominent leaders, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto back in 2007 and 2013.
Former Governor Benjamin Cheboi is the brains behind the now-stagnated project. He initiated plans to upgrade the sporting facility back in 2014.
“Despite scarce allocation of county resources, my administration was committed to completing the stadium by December 2018,” he said.
The idea was to give the playground a facelift, beautifying it to an admirable, classical and magnificent stature to attract local, national and international tournaments.
But the wearing out of the brick perimeter wall of the stadium indicates clearly the construction works stopped for the last two years.
Former Sports chief officer Enock Kiptaiwa said the project was estimated to cost at least Sh350 million to complete.
Ideally, he said, the model field was to have a VIP lounge, pavilion and spectator terraces, complete with rehabilitated toilets, bathrooms and changing rooms.
“We then left office when the construction works were 80 per cent complete,” he said, adding that they had already paid the contractors Sh30 million.
However, the look on the ground is one of a project that was barely 15 per cent complete. Audit reports (more on this later) also showed more modest sums were involved.
The cumulative amount was paid to Dama-tech, Birmark and Trump construction companies, which jointly did the ground flattening, fencing, sinking and construction of the toilet.
“Electrical and waterworks companies were about to begin their work to do wiring and connect the pipes on the site before our administration was withdrawn,” Kiptaiwa said.
He cannot tell the level of destruction caused by humans and animals, “not unless a thorough audit is carried out”, he said.
Incumbent Governor Stanley Kiptis said he halted the construction works after some individuals presented documents seeking land compensation.
“We are still waiting for the wrangles of ownership of land to be solved first because some people have surfaced claiming ownership of the land,” he said.
That, however, does not wash with Bondeni resident Kiprop Limo, 60, who laments that the whole project now seems “wasted and dilapidated”.
“I am one of the genuine rights holders. My late father had a three-acre plot inside the farm but he surrendered it fully to the government,” Limo said.
Another resident, Martin Kibaliat, also said he no longer claims his 80-by-50 plot inside the stadium.
He was backed by the Foot Kenya Federation-Baringo branch chairman Abdala Ali, who suspects a lot of money may have been looted from the stalled project.
Kiptaiwa said the project was aboveboard. The former Sports chief officer said they had received an allotment letter after successfully applying to the National Lands Commission to acquire a legal title deed for the stadium.
“There was no person who had presented a single land case to us, unless something else happened thereafter,” he said.
The stadium dates back to the 1980s, during the tenure of President Daniel Arap Moi, when a mass eviction was carried out.
Under him, the then Kabarnet town mayor Philemon Chelagat and County Council chairman Joel Bultut bailed out the evictees by allocating them parcels of land in various settlement schemes, such as Mochongoi, Elgeyo-Kaptagat and Trans-Nzoia-Kitale.
Former Auditor General Edward Ouko's audit report indicate that the contractor was awarded a Sh17.5 million contract during the 2017-18 financial year. The rehabilitation of the stadium was to be completed by February 28, 2018.
But the report further indicated that the Transport and Infrastructure department paid the contractor Sh16.7 million as at June 30, 2018, without a single documentation.
The report also noted the stadium is incomplete despite the contract expiry of February 2018, and also to date, no contractor, materials or workers were seen on site.
The delay has forced athletes from Baringo to seek established training facilities in neighbouring counties, such as Iten and Kaptagat in Elgeyo Marakwet county.
Current Sports executive Clement Lomaring’oria said they are considering awarding another contractor to continue with the works.
“The contractor did a shoddy job and we are going to award the works to another one who will continue to its completion once we have the right documents for the stadium,” he said.
In May 2019, EACC officials visited the site to collect facts on the stalled project, but to date they are yet to produce a report.
Edited by T Jalio