The ongoing construction of Sh.18.4 billion Kibwezi-Kitui road is ahead of schedule with 53 percent of total works completed despite land acquisition challenges.
Eng. Michael Kinyua Muchemi from APEC Consortium has said that the delay to reconstitute and appoint new commissioners at the National Land Commission (NLC) is hampering land acquisition along the project route from Mutomo to Kitui posing early entry delay of the project in the area.
Speaking during the County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee (CDICC) meeting held in Kitui County Commissioner’s Boardroom on Wednesday, Eng. Muchemi said that so far over 100 kilometres of the entire highway have been covered despite hiccups of court cases and resistance of land acquisition from affected landowners.
The 42 month road with an 85 percent financing from China’s Exim Bank and 15 percent from the Kenyan government is set to be completed on February 15, 2021.
“So far the contractor has received a certified amount of Sh.10 billion with an accrued interest of Sh.250 million as per the agreement,” said the Highways Engineer.
He lamented the resistance of land owners who have encroached on the road reserve, despite efforts to have them remove their properties.
The Engineer said that land acquisition process is ongoing, adding that those that have encroached on the road reserves are derailing the project that has timelines.
“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,” he said.
On compensation, Eng. Muchemi 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 to survey other areas earmarked for compensation. We have halted the process due to lack of structures at the commission,” he lamented.
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 that was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in December 2016 is set to open Kitui South constituency that does not have an inch of tarmac 55 years since independence,.
The constituency is known to possess limestone, iron ore, and cement and is a gateway to Tsavo East National Park. It is also agro-potential with the main economic activities being bee keeping, livestock rearing and planting of 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 and 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.
According to Syokau Muange, 60, from Mutomo in Kitui South, the road will enhance accessibility, affordability and
reliability of the transport infrastructure system to promote economic growth and socio-economic development in the lower eastern region.
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 is also expected to 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).
Collins Musembi, who runs a shop at Ikutha market, said that the road project will open up the area and ease transportation along the corridor.
“I will get my supplies easily whenever I run out of stock. I will easily rush to Kitui to re-stock my shop, thus making business easier and maximizing returns,” said Musembi.
By Yobesh Onwong’a