Kenya: President Kenyatta Meets Ukambani Leaders at State House

President Uhuru Kenyatta hugs Opposition leader Raila Odinga as his Deputy President William Ruto (right) and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka cheer them at the National Prayer Breakfast meeting (file photo).

President Uhuru Kenyatta invited leaders from Ukambani region for a meeting at State House on Monday following disquiet over alleged raw deal in the sharing of "handshake" goodies.

Elected leaders including governors, senators, members of parliament and select MCAs in the three county assemblies of Kitui, Machakos and Makueni were mobilised on Sunday night, and asked to attend the consultative meeting.

The State House meeting comes only two days after Governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) claimed that despite Kamba leaders supporting the Handshake agenda fully, the region had nothing to show for it in terms of tangible infrastructure projects like other regions.

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama are said to have snubbed the consultative meeting.

Earlier on Sunday, the President is said to have telephoned the two governors and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka where he agreed to meet the region's leadership to discuss their concerns.

"We've been invited to State House by President Kenyatta. We'll table the expectations of the region's 5 million population and what we feel should be done to put Ukambani on the same pedestal with other regions," Governor Ngilu told Nation.Africa.

'Nothing to show for support'

On Friday, Ms Ngilu and Dr Mutua said other than what the three counties were getting from shareable revenue, the region had nothing to show for steadfastly supporting the Handshake between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

"Even in this year's annual budget, what is in it for us? There's nothing we can be proud of but in other regions we're only seeing multi-billion shilling projects being launched" said Mrs Ngilu during the burial of former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile.

On his part, Governor Mutua said counties were struggling to implement small projects, clear pending bills and even pay the county staff on time because of incessant delays in disbursement of funds from national treasury.

"As we speak here, County staff in Kitui, Machakos and Makueni have not been paid their monthly salaries because we don't have any money" lamented Dr Mutua.

But Mr Musyoka disagreed with them saying the shareable revenue from national treasury should achieve significant development if well utilized and accused them of presiding over corruption in their counties.

"If we take over the leadership of this country in 2022, some governors who have misused public funds will end up in jail" said Mr Musyoka.

The two governors cited several huge projects which the president launched during his three day tour of lakeside city, which were undertaken following the historic Handshake with Mr Odinga in March 2018.

Among the projects unveiled by President Kenyatta are the Sh3.8 billion rehabilitated Nakuru-Kisumu Metre Gauge Railway, the Sh3 billion refurbished Kisumu port, Sh350 million ultra-modern Uhuru business park, Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium at the Mamboleo ASK ground, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex, Inland Container Depot at Kibos and 400kv power project by Ketraco.

During the historic visit which culminated in Madaraka Day celebrations, the President also commissioned a marine school in Kisumu which is part of the Railway Training Institute among other projects.

Leaders' demands

Kamba leaders now want President Kenyatta to give equal attention to their region in reciprocation to their support for the Handshake.

Separate interviews with some of the leaders revealed a wish list of projects that include several road projects, water and manufacturing projects.

Top on the list is a road linking Kitui and Makueni counties and another connecting Kitui and Tana River counties, revival of the stalled coal mining project and revival of collapsed Wikithuki irrigation project in Mwingi, among others.

For instance, to access Hola town in Tana River, residents have to travel either through Mombasa or Garissa, while those travelling from Kitui to Wote town in Makueni have to go through Machakos because there's no road connecting the counties.

The leaders also want Export Processing Zones established in their counties to actualize Manufacturing - one of President Kenyatta's Big Four Agendas, while the irrigation is revived with additional support to farmers to engage in value addition of their produce.

The three counties have established several manufacturing projects including the Kitui County Textiles Centre (Kicotec), Kitui Ballast Crusher, Kalamba Fruit Processing plant in Makueni among others.

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