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Lack of Land Commissioners delays Sh. 18.4 B Kibwezi-Kitui road

Landowners  along the Kitui Town-Syongila Bypass may have to wait longer to receive their compensation due to the  delay in constituting National Land Commissioners.

However, despite the hiccup, the ongoing construction of Sh. 18.4 billion Kibwezi-Kitui road is ahead of schedule with 80 per cent of total works completed despite land acquisition challenges, says  Jackson Ole Chuta, acting Kitui County Commissioner.

The delay to appoint new commissioners at  the National Land Commission (NLC) is hampering land  acquisition along the project  route from Mutomo to Kitui posing delay of the project in the area.

Speaking  during the County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee (CDICC) inspection tour, Ole  Chuta said that so far over 100 km of the entire trunk highway have been covered despite hiccups of court cases and resistance of land acquisition from affected landowners.

The  42 month contract road is set to be completed on February 15, 2021 with an 85 per cent financing from China’s Exim Bank and 15 per cent from the Government of Kenya.

The administrator decried the resistance of land owners who have encroached on the road reserve despite appeals to them to move their properties out of the road reserve that was surveyed in 1973.

He said that land acquisition process is on-going, adding that those that have encroached on the road reserves are derailing the project that has timelines and financial implications.

“Parts of the road reserve have graveyards along the trunk highway. The contractor has agreed to help families move the graves through financial support to perform the ritual rites for the dead according to Kamba traditions,” said Ole Chuta.

On  compensation, the administrator said that all cases from Kibwezi to Mutomo are at the National Land Commission for arbitration and compensation of the claims.

“The  delay  in  constituting  the  appointment of commissioners to NLC since their exit in February has led to delay in surveying other areas earmarked for compensation. We have halted the process due to lack of structures at the NLC Commissioners,” said a source who did not want to be named owing to the sensitivity of the matter.

The  multi-billion project has been touted as a game changer in the Lower Eastern region that will spur socio-economic development along the trunk international highway that had been a sleeping giant.

The  192 kilometres highway is set to open Kitui South constituency that did not have an inch of tarmac road 55 years  after independence following the launching of the project by President Uhuru Kenyatta in December 2016.

The  constituency is known to possess limestone, iron ore, cement mining; it is a gateway to Tsavo East National Park, agro-potential such as the longest tradition in the area of bee keeping, planting traditional drought resistant crops and livestock management.

The  multi-billion road project, which cuts across eight other constituencies, starts at the junction of the Nairobi-

Mombasa  road  near Kibwezi  Town, passes northward  through Ikutha, Mutomo, Kitui, Kabati to Migwani.

Kenya has been making considerable headway over the past two years on a development agenda designed to strengthen the country’s position as a leading regional transport and logistics centre for the East  Africa region.

Ole  Chuta  disclosed that the road is expected to offer alternative route from the Port of Mombasa to the Lower, Upper Eastern Regions and Ethiopia hence, decongesting the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway and improve the economic competitiveness of lower eastern counties.

The  road forms part of  the larger Mombasa-Addis Ababa Transport Corridor that links the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway (A8) at Kibwezi and the Nairobi-Addis Ababa Highway (A2) at Isiolo. It is an alternative shorter route to Moyale  and ultimately Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The traffic to these areas from Mombasa will avoid going through Nairobi once the entire stretch to Isiolo via Mwingi and  Mikinduri to join the Meru-Maua Road  at  Muriri is upgraded to bitumen standard,” said a recent report released by  the  Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA).

By  Yobesh  Onwong’a

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