FORGOTTEN KENYANS

Endless plea of constituency with not even inch of tarmac

Wajir South MP Prof Mohamud Sheikh alias Dr Omaar wants constituency split into three for better service delivery

In Summary

• Wajir South is 48 per cent of the Wajir county landmass but lacks tarmac, piped water

• County government accused of neglecting region for political reasons

Wajir South MP Mohamud Sheikh during a committee meeting in Parliament in March
Wajir South MP Mohamud Sheikh during a committee meeting in Parliament in March
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

"If Adam and Eve came back to life today, the only place they could identify with is Wajir South constituency in Wajir county."

Those were the words of area MP Sheikh Mohamud, alias Dr Omaar, as he sat with the Star for this interview at an eerily quiet edge of Parliament’s restaurant.

The lawmaker decried the squalid situation that continues to accost his constituents in their endeavours to make ends meet.

 
 

The area has remained underdeveloped, locked down and without provisions, meaning the locals have no enjoyment of rights like other Kenyans.

To start with, the hue and cry is that the constituency, one of the six in Wajir county, is too huge for the Sh136 million it is allocated annually in CDF funds.

IEBC data shows that Wajir South is about 21,424 sq km, hence larger than Central (11,449), Nairobi (696) and Western (7,400) regions combined.

Dr Omaar told the Star the region has been neglected since 1962, when it was created, with its peers having been split into smaller, manageable administrative units.

In 1969, there were two administrative units, Wajir North and South, of which North was split into Wajir North and Wajir West constituencies.

A further division of Wajir North birthed Wajir East, currently under the hold of Rashid Amin, all this time South remaining as it was created.

Wajir West was split to form Eldas, whereas Wajir East was further split to birth Tarbaj, now represented by Ahmed Bashane.

 
 

Wajir South is 48 per cent of the Wajir county landmass and the second largest constituency in the country after North Horr.

But Omaar says theirs has been a life of misery and suffering as residents have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get state services.

The average distance across the constituency, Google maps analysis show, is about 290km, meaning a round trip is about 580km.

LITANY OF WOES

This has been made tough as there is no single tarmac road in Wajir South, not even a quarter of a kilometre, despite the celebrations in 2014 when the first one was laid in Wajir town.

There are ongoing works on the Modogashe-Isiolo-Mandera highway, but the road passes the edge of the constituency.

Residents are further worried that “education is in the doldrums and children are failing examinations tremendously”.

The feel there is that Kenya has neglected its own, leaving one wondering how people have been surviving there without running water, mains electricity, hospitals and schools.

“It is a challenge giving service to the community as enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. With the long distances, it is impossible to reach the community and to listen to their plight,” Omaar said.

“A mother who wants to deliver has to travel 290km to get a health centre. A man who wants to go fetch water for his children has to travel a minimum 50km. Is this fair?” he asked.

The government declared and gazetted Dif and Sabuli as subcounties but the same is yet to implemented, meaning locals still travel 290km for IDs, birth certificates, medical tests and other government services.

SPLIT TO THREE

For service delivery to be effective, the lawmaker wants the government, through the IEBC boundary review, to split the constituency into three.

“Let the state give us the constituencies, hospitals, running water. We need the last-mile connectivity to reach here. Let the grid be constructed,” the MP appealed.

He presented the proposal to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce before the public hearings ended.

Their other concern is that the constituency has the largest number of livestock and tracts of arable land, yet it has no agriculture activities happening.

Lorian swamp, which draws its waters from Ewaso Nyiro, straddles the constituency, but is largely underused, with no measures in place for water harvesting.

Omaar said they wonder why it was easy to allocate Sh35 billion each for Arror and Kimwarer dams ‘only for the same to be mismanaged’.

“Wajir South is asking for just a Sh250 million water pan. This is a small fraction of the amount allocated to the mega dams, yet it is not provided.”

The region is among those with the poorest network connectivity, with hundreds of kilometres of network grey spots, and schools sparsely located.

Illiteracy level is high in the region, where newspapers get to residents several days after they are churned out from press outlets in Nairobi.

The medic-cum-philanthropist says it has proven impractical to serve the 300,000 residents of the region, the size of three provinces, with only Sh136 million.

“Allow me to see how Kenyan can accept this. Unfortunately, the former representatives may not have looked at things from the page I am looking at now,” he said.

“The question we must ask is if the Kenyan Constitution is skewed towards other parts of this country. I have the longest borderline with Somalia, hence face the biggest challenge of spillover effects of the instability there.”

The lawmaker says the constituents’ luck is that they have not had the challenges of al Shabaab attacks; otherwise, life would have been worse.

“We are lucky because the people who live on the border are from the same clan. We talk to each other. Jubaland government has equally been supportive on matters security.”

POROUS BORDER

However, due to the near total absence of government in the area, goods not examined by Kebs, including foodstuffs, continue to pass through the porous border at Dif.

“The black market is booming for the few rotten individuals. We feel there will be more benefits to us and the country if a customs border post was opened here,” the MP said.

The development is touted as one that will create a revenue stream for the country and also ensure Kenyans get quality goods.

Dif was gazetted as a border entry point in 1956 but has neither a bonafide border post nor a presence of KRA and multi-agency teams manning the country’s entry points.

“Do we really have to live this way 60 years into Independence? There is only one place with electricity, which was to be distributed from Wajir town. We cannot accept this,” Omaar said.

He said the county government has equally neglected Wajir South because the clan has been competing for the post.

“The idea of winner takes-it-all is hurting us and our livelihoods as a people. We are one constituency competing with five others.”

“Resources equivalent of five constituencies are provided to the rest of the county, while Wajir South only gets one share, yet its size is equivalent to the five,” the MP said.

When split into three constituencies, he said, it will be easier to map areas for the government to deliver services.

“I have written to all the government departments to intervene on these development needs, including the President’s Delivery Unit.”

The MP says the area is endowed with oil deposits worth exploring and natural resources, such as gum arabica, which have not been tapped into.

“A quarter of the livestock products that come to Nairobi are sourced from Wajir. We need investments in such ventures to make life meaningful to the people.”

Locals also want the border post created for goods to come through Kismayo port, which is 150km from Dif border, compared to Mombasa, which is over 1,000 km away.

“With Kismayo that close, the constituents can do business there and connect easily to Ethiopia if that border point is open. Within three quarters of a day, goods cleared at Kismayo can get to Ethiopia through Moyale.”

UHURU’S PROMISE

President Uhuru Kenyatta promised the government would construct a dam at Dif, but this is yet to be effected three years later.

The project has not been featured anywhere in the budget or government development framework for the next three years.

To give credit though, the deployment of security is effective, with KDF setting up a camp at Gerile, Rapid Deployment Unit at Gerille and Dif, as well as other units spread along the border.

Omaar says he will be among the last persons to be on podiums “to yell out for other leaders against or for them”, yet his constituents are suffering.

The Jubilee MP says his priority is service delivery, of which he prides in developing a number of schools, 57 of them from scratch and others refurbished.

Even so, some 21 schools still have learners taking lessons under under trees, yet the schools have continued to present KCPE candidates.

Since his election in 2017, NG CDF board reports show Dr Omaar’s constituency has disbursed about Sh83 million for bursaries.

Edited by T Jalio

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star