A meeting between residents of Kiunduani in Makueni County and Kenya Railways Corporation on Thursday over a disputed railway crossing was punctuated by sneers between Governor Kivutha Kibwana and an area administrator Ms Naomi Mwangi.
The meeting, that was attended by General (Rtd) Jeremiah Kianga, Chairman, KRC Board of Directors, four directors and top railway managers, and local leaders, was convened after the residents protested a KRC plan to block a route to Kiunduani Market in the ongoing construction of the Standard Gauge railway line.
Last week, residents protested against a proposal by KRC to build them a footbridge over the railway line, arguing instead for a motorable underpass or a road over the railway line.
Accompanied by Prof Kibwana, a section of the residents traveled to KRC headquarters in Nairobi and held talks with Mr Kianga and top railway managers in charge of the SGR project, where the plan for Thursday’s meeting at the disputed site was mooted.
However, a letter that KRC wrote to area leaders this week renegaded on a deal for an underpass that KRC had promised the delegation of Kiunduani residents who went to Nairobi, to the chagrin of some leaders and the residents who had convened at Ngwiwa Primary School grounds.
Addressing the gathering, Ms Mwangi faulted the move to escalate the railway crossing row to Nairobi “before exhausting available mechanisms” of resolving the dispute.
“You do not start climbing a tree from its top,” said Ms Mwangi, in a statement seen to be directed at Prof Kibwana.
When the governor’s turn to address the gathering came, he took a swipe at Ms Mwangi faulting her language and requiring that she “needs to give us a break.”
According to Prof Kibwana, the Makindu deputy County Commissioner was wrong to allege that the residents had refused to cede a ground in their demand for an access route across the railway line.
“We have complained severally over the SGR project and written to authorities in vain,” said Prof Kibwana.
He added: “Our demand for an access route here is informed by its fundamental value to the locals’ livelihoods as well as to the risk posed to the growth of their market when the route is closed.”
In response, Mr Kianga apologised to the residents for the design flows in the new railway design and promised that KRC would fulfill demands of the residents over the railway crossing.
“We shall go back and work on an amicable solution that we shall deliver to you by next week,” he said to the applause of the audience.