Over 50 families from Manyenyoni and Majengo in the outskirts of Kitui Town where the Kitui-Kibwezi road bypass traverses, have threatened to paralyze roadworks over imminent eviction and delayed compensation for land.
Speaking at Kalundu Bridge where they staged a peaceful demo, the irate locals vowed not to vacate their ancestral land until the State compensates them fully.
This is after they received a 15-day eviction notice from the National Land Commission (NLC) requiring them to vacate their homes to pave way for roadworks which stalled late last year due to compensation row.
“We were shocked to receive the eviction notice while the same NLC is yet to compensate us for our land on which the road will be build. Where do they expect us to go with our children?” posed Jane Kang’enda.
Ms Kang’enda, who also lives with physical disability, termed the move by NLC to encroach on their legally owned land as an act of impunity.
“Tell NLC that we will neither be cowed nor budge until we get paid to the last coin,” she added.
Caroline Mbula wondered why project affected persons (PAPs) in Makueni County and Kitui South where the road traverses were compensated for land without a hitch while the government “has been playing cat and mouse games with us.”
“They should know that there is no free land in Kitui. They can continue with the project once all our grievances are addressed and dues paid,” she pointed out.
Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego denied claims by the locals that the State was planning to forcibly possess the disputed track of land.
“We are trying to negotiate with the affected families to allow resumption of the roadworks pending compensation which NLC is working on,” he said.
“They must appreciate the fact that NLC was reconstituted recently after tenure of the previous commissioners expired. The new team is doing everything possible to process compensation but the contractor is running out of time,” explained the County Commissioner.
Ondego said that the national government has set aside Sh. 37billion to fund development projects in Kitui County touching on the water sector, roads, hospitals and ICT learning integration in schools.
The County Commissioner said that the development projects initiated by the national government are meant to accelerate service delivery and improve livelihoods for wananchi.
‘The national government is investing heavily to ease the water burden in this arid and semi-arid county as well as open up remote regions through the Kibwezi-Kitui highway construction, among other projects,’ said Ondego.
Ondego added, there is need to escalate the matter to the national level to ensure prompt payment to contractors to ensure smooth progress of government projects.
However, despite the hiccup, the ongoing construction of Sh 18.4 billion Kibwezi-Kitui road is ahead of schedule despite land acquisition challenges.
The 42-month contract road is set to be completed by February 15, 2021 with an 85% financing from China’s Exim Bank and 15% from the Government of Kenya.
By Yobesh Onwong’a