Tharaka Nithi is a relatively small county having been carved out of the then larger Meru district after the promulgation of the constitution 2010. When Kenya attained independence way back in 1963 Meru was one of the six districts in the Eastern province. During Moi era, Meru was subdivided into three districts namely Nyambene, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.
Devolution gave birth to Tharaka Nithi County consisting of four sub-counties. Today the county consists of five sub-counties with three constituencies. The county has an area of 2,609 km² and as of the 2019 census a population of 393,177.
Although the county headquarters is located at Kathwana Township, the County Commissioner (CC) and all national government offices are yet to relocate from Chuka which prior to devolution was the headquarters for Meru South district. The CC is still housed in the former district headquarters. Chuka town still remains the commercial hub of Tharaka-Nithi County. The town is home to the best hotels, banking facilities, the county Referral hospital, leading high schools, the Chuka University and to crown it all a modern open market at the very centre of the town.
Business is promoted by the fact that Chuka lies along the Meru- Embu road that connects the town to Moyale at the border with Ethiopia and the City of Nairobi and beyond. The road is also the shortest route for Miraa dealers from Maua to reach Nairobi enroute to international destinations.
But this state of affairs will soon become a thing of the past after the completion of modern state of the art County Commissioner`s offices at Kathwana thanks to the aggressive nature of the current holder of the office Ms. Beverly Opwora. The four storey building is located along the newly tarmacked Ena-Chiakariga-Meru road making it easily accessible from the neighbouring Embu and Meru counties besides the Tharaka North and South sub-county headquarters located at Gatunga and Marimanti shopping centres respectively.
Speaking during a recent inspection of national government projects in Tharaka Nithi County, the Eastern Regional Commissioner (RC), Isaiah Nakoru hailed Ms. Opwora and other government officers who have supervised national government projects for their timely successful completion. He however did not shy away from reminding government officers that the Presidential Executive Order No 1 of 2019 was aimed at ensuring that wananchi got value for money and it is the high time that they realised that they have to walk the talk and shelve all corrupt practices.
The Regional boss who was accompanied by technocrats of project implementation from the regional level said the government has invested close to 20 billion in 36 projects in Tharaka Nithi County alone.
Nakoru said as the Chairman of the Regional Development Implementation Committee (RDICC) his team would not condone any form of corruption by government officers and directed the Tharaka Nithi County Commissioner and the County Police Commander to ensure that Eng. Raymond Murungi who had supervised a nearby water pan that has been condemned fully discloses why over 20 million of government money was paid for such shoddy work.
“It is very unfortunate that you not only failed to adhere to laid down government procedures but you adamantly refused to listen to well- intentioned advice from authorities mandated to oversee the implementation of government projects to protect taxpayer’s money,” the RC reprimanded the Engineer from the National Irrigation Board.
But it is not only the RC who realized the efficiency of Ms. Opwora in steering the prior little known Tharaka Nithi County into the national limelight since she was transferred into the county barely a year ago.
A retired military officer, Captain Juma Njagi who is a very active member of the Tharaka Nithi County Engagement Forum acknowledged that the CC has done a tremendous job in ensuring that the government policy of 100% transition from primary to secondary school is achieved and described her as the most dedicated commissioner the county has ever had. The County emerged number five in this venture countrywide.
The County Development Implementation Coordination Committee (CDICC), which she chairs, has overseen the successful implementation of various government projects among them the Chiakariga-Mitunguu section of the newly tarmacked Ena- Chiakariga-Meru road ,the upgrading power supply into Three-Phase at Chuka Hospital that has enabled a CT-Scan and Digital X-ray become operational. The CDICC has also overseen the successful completion of Muringa-Banana water project that has enabled the irrigation of prior dry parts of lower parts of Maara Sub-county.
The CC was in the forefront in cracking the Kavonokia sect that was against enumeration during the 2019 National Housing and Population census besides steering an aggressive tree planting campaign that has seen Tharaka Nithi achieve 19% forest cover which is way above the national 10% forest cover target. She has also relentlessly fought Female Genital Mutilation that has been quite rampant in Tharaka constituency.
The senior administrator declared war against the deviant Kavonokia sect members who refuse to send their children to school and oppose seeking medical treatment at hospitals when sick and were opposed to enumeration during the 2019 census.
Speaking in Tharaka North Sub-county, where the sect has pitched camp, during the exercise the CC said the government cannot sit back and allow wayward religious organizations continue to deny children their right to education and medical attention.
Ms. Opwora also issued a stern warning that the government would be very ruthless in dealing with cases of FGM, as some parents would be tempted to take their daughters through the outlawed cultural practice during the long December holidays.
“Beware that you will be held personally responsible for all such cases reported from your respective areas,” reiterated Opwora, adding that chiefs in the region who fail to arrest culprits involved in the vice have no business working for the government.
The CC said that the national government was on a mission to make Kenya, an FGM free state by 2022 and that it all depended on the local public administration to make the dream come true.
Ms. Opwora is virtually present in any event some of which belong to the county government and has managed to break the barrier that prior existed between the two levels of government by constantly reminding the civil servants at the two levels that what wananchi expect is service delivery and the barrier is none of their business.
By David Mutwiri