The Kericho devolved government has begun implementing many projects promised by Governor Paul Chepkwony during his swearing-in, amid complaints about lack of public participation and other stakeholders’ involvement.
While taking the oath of office in August, the county boss pledged to start upgrading Kerenga Airstrip, double water supply through drilling of boreholes, speed up colonial injustices case against the United Kingdom and improve general infrastructure and industrialisation.
But even as Prof Chepkwony focuses on the key projects, a number of residents have expressed dissatisfied with some developments carried forward from his first term and which have yet to begin bearing fruits.
Among them is the “one ward one product” project, which was meant to boost agriculture.
“Top of our agenda was the Sh100 million expansion of Kerenga Airstrip to accommodate cargo planes in order to promote export of produce and spruce tourism. The project kicked off last week with the arrival of experts from the Kenya Air Force,” said Prof Chepkwony.
He added that his administration expected more professional input from the Kenya Civil Aviation and the air force, including the layout and security aspects of the field, before work could begin.
However, Kapsoit Ward Representative Paul Tarimbo, who is also the chairman of the Committee on Roads and Infrastructure in the county assembly, accused the governor of running a one-man show when it came to development.
“Certain processes must be followed as we develop the airstrip. The governor called the air force without informing the county assembly,” Mr Tarimbo said.
“There was no representative from the national government such as the county commissioner or the National Intelligence Service.”
Some residents of Nyagacho area said the governor’s priorities were misplaced, citing dilapidated roads connecting the town, need to clear mountains of garbage, poor drainage and sewers and poor maintenance of public parks and gardens.
“How will I board a plane in Kerenga without getting dirty?” said one Nyagacho town resident.
“You cannot buy clothes when you don’t have food.”
Prof Chepkwony had also embarked on plans to sink 600 boreholes, which he said had begun with the advertising of a tender for the purchase of a rig.
“We expect to get the machine in the coming few months. We have also set aside Sh1.7 million for the expansion of Kericho Water Service Company (Kewasco) and merge it with Tililbei Water Company so that it can supply to more areas,” said Governor Chepkwony.
To promote sports, Prof Chepkwony said his administration had advertised bids to lay a tartan track at the Kericho Green Stadium.
In 2014, the Talai and Kipsigis initiated a case through the county government, seeking compensation for evictions from their land by the colonial government to pave the way for tea plantations.
Prof Chepkwony’s election victory of 96 per cent in August was largely hinged on his promise to pursue the case during his second term.
A fortnight ago, he hosted Mr Karim Khan, the lead adviser in the case, to brief the victims about its progress in what would be the last stage before the Sh98 million suit is filed in a London court.
“We are facilitating this case on behalf of the two communities. We have gathered compelling evidence and are ready to move the case to the next stage. We are sure of victory,” the governor said.
The plans for industrialisation, including setting up a tea auction in Kericho are, however, not yet on the radar.
The governor said his main focus was on concluding a court case against the Kenya Tea Development Agency and other parties residents accuse of exploitation.
“Tea bonuses have remained low for long. It is not about geography but collusion by cartels and a monopoly in Kericho,” the governor said.
“Let our farmers be assured that we will set up an auction and source for other brokers so that our tea is sold fairly and in a competitive manner.”
He said his officials laid grounds during his first term for agriculture-related industries that would see a reduction in poverty through job creation.
The county opened a coffee processing mill in Sigowet/Soin constituency and is yet to complete the construction of a pineapple factory in Bureti Constituency that stalled in 2009.
Prof Chepkwony said the devolved unit had also ensured that there was no shortage of health workers, drugs and equipment in hospitals.
However, Mr Tarimbo does not agree with the governor.
He said the assembly had drafted a statement to make the executive give a breakdown on how much was used to buy drugs.
“When county officials were flagging off pharmaceuticals early this month, they said Sh30 million was used to buy them, but that evening, the governor talked of Sh58 million. We have raised that on the floor of the House to get a breakdown of the amount. There must be accountability and transparency,” the ward representative said.
During his campaigns in 2013, the governor said among his long-term projects was overseeing the building and recarpeting of 2,500km of roads.
He also talked of improving agricultural productivity and value addition for coffee, tea, sweet potatoes, pineapples and other produce.
“Kericho did exceptionally well in the first term, using 56 per cent of its allocation on development against the 30 per cent expected by the law. We will do much better this term,” Prof Chepkwony said during his inauguration.
In neighbouring Bomet County, Governor Joyce Laboso promised to embrace collective leadership by involving other stakeholders in the region’s growth.
In her manifesto ahead of the August 8 elections, Dr Laboso promised to bring change to the county by improving infrastructure to enable farmers to access markets easily.
She also promised to improve health care by providing drugs to hospitals.
The then-National Assembly deputy Speaker promised to deploy personnel to new hospitals.
She, at the same time, said her administration would boost early childhood development education.
On agriculture, Dr Laboso said she would work with other stakeholders to reduce the cost of tea processing, saying the high electricity tariffs denied farmers the much needed profits.
She also vowed to improve dairy farming in Bomet County.
Implementation of most of her promises, however, is yet to begin.
The nullifying of the August 8 presidential election and the subsequent campaigns and poisoned political atmosphere in the country have been cited as the reasons for the delay.