In this interactive series, we invite readers to send in questions to selected public figures. This week, Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja responds to your questions.
1. Since the tenure of the former governor, there have been claims that Mtito-Andei is within Taita Taveta County despite the fact that almost 100 percent of the inhabitants are from the Kamba community. In your opinion, where is Mtito-Andei located and what can be done to end the confusion?
Gerald Mutua Mutiso, Makueni County
As a county, we still maintain that the disputed town, Mtito-Andei, is part and parcel of Taita Taveta County. We have proposed a structured dialogue.
If a solution is arrived at, we as leaders will hold joint rallies and consultative forums aimed at calming the tensions among our people.
Can we find a solution to this long-standing dispute? Yes. Whether the leadership of Makueni County is keen on this is the question that we must first answer.
2. Yours is among several counties which are witnessing perennial human-wildlife conflicts leading to death, injuries and damage to crops. What are you doing about this?
Komen Moris, Eldoret
The Tsavo East and Tsavo West National parks occupy more than 63 percent of our land leaving us with very little for farming and occupation.
Our people have fallen victim to wildlife attacks. Small-scale farmers have gone without any yield as a result of the wanton destruction of their farm produce.
We have had high-level discussions with the national government on the destruction occasioned by wildlife; there is a slight improvement but it is not enough.
We have started going around the county carrying out civic education aimed at giving our people an opportunity to petition the Senate and the National Government.
The County Assembly, the elected members of the National Assembly and the Executive have already started work on a petition that will see us demand that the two national parks been transformed into game reserves.
We need a share of the billions collected from the parks channelled into the county for development.
3. You were elected on a Wiper party ticket but as soon as the elections were done, you started drifting towards Jubilee and in particular Deputy President William Ruto. What can you tell the voters who voted for you because of your party?
Francis Kilonzo, Mwatate
Francis, just the other day we held a national executive meeting of the Wiper party in Nairobi where my party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and the rest of the members agreed to work with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.
The Deputy President is in the executive arm of government. In the spirit of the handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, this country is now on the path of less politics and more development.
Nothing stops Granton Samboja from associating with any politician, as long that association will see us realise the dreams and aspirations of our people.
4. Sir, what explains the stalling in works of the Sh100 billion diaspora university town project?
John, if you were to take a drive around the county, you will realise that our education standards are in dire need of urgent national government intervention.
Many of our children at the secondary school level cannot stay in school because the classes lack electricity and security.
Through the support of friends, and a small foundation I run, we have tried to intervene; completing electrical works and buying mattresses and beds for the students.
So this diaspora university project is a noble idea. You will be hearing from the government on the next cause of action in the near future.
5. What are you doing to exploit the mineral resources to uplift the economic well-being of your county?
Phiona Mkacharo, Taveta
The Department of Mining has embarked on an artisanal and small scale miners support and capacity building programme intended to provide technical skills as well as practical assistance to the miners.
We have engaged with industry investors who are keen to exploit industrial minerals such as iron ore and manganese in the county.
Through collaboration with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, we expect the necessary royalty revenues will be submitted to communities in addition to the corporate social responsibility, job and procurement opportunities that shall be availed to the youth.
6. What are some of the challenges in your county and what are you doing to resolve them?
Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi
The biggest challenge my county is facing is infrastructure, water and education. We are closely working with the national government in rehabilitating the county’s road network that has remained in dilapidated state for decades.
We have major water springs but as a county, we are still struggling to provide clean water to our people.
We have embarked on ambitious road and water projects to ease the burden of doing business and also make the county water sufficient.
We are robustly engaging the national government when it comes to education because education has not been devolved.
7. It is more than a year since you were sworn into office. What are some of your key achievements?
Jackson Mwabili, Voi
I will pick three areas where my government has made major strides. First, on health, my administration has launched a Sh40 million health insurance project dubbed Afya Bora Mashinani, which we have partnered with the National Hospital Insurance Fund.
The county government will be paying Sh6,000 annual premium to NHIF for every resident who cannot afford medical cover.
With as little as Sh17 a day, hundreds of our people are getting enrolled in this noble project. My county has put up a renal centre at Moi Hospital in Voi, which currently serves 19 people.
Regarding water, we have mapped out the four sub-counties and their water needs.
In Voi Sub-County we are in the process of commissioning Kimwa water project that will serve 5,000 people in lower Kajire region.
Then there is the Kaloleni, Maungu and Ndome water projects, which will serve 40,000 people.
In Wundanyi Sub-County, my government is looking at laying water pipes in Eldoro, Mahandakini, Lessesia and the big water project that will draw its water from the Mzima springs. In fact, the Mzima water project is already underway at a cost of Sh40 million.
On agriculture, we are the only county in the coastal region that has cut by half the cost of artificial insemination, this has greatly improved livestock numbers.
You may be aware that the county produces 18 million litres of milk annually. This figure will be doubled in the next one year. The last one year has seen my administration construct 10 cooling plants, with four of them ready to be launched.
The county had supplied the farmers with seeds to a tune of Sh1 million. Besides, my administration has trained 10,000 farmers in modern agricultural practices.
8. Taita Taveta County is a unique county in that more than 60 percent of its land is within Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks leaving a small proportion for other uses. Moreover, private ranches and sisal estates occupy significant amounts of land leaving the rest of the population with little or no land. What can be done to ensure equitable land distribution?
Jairus Okinyi, Nairobi
Jairus, the question of land is as historical as the injustices meted on our people who not only lack land, but also the most important document that gives them a right to own land; the title deed.
Our first step was to put pen to paper the land problem that has bedevilled our people for decades. In the last one year, my administration has issued more than 5,000 title deeds.
Our target this year is to issue 10,000 title deeds. It is true that thousands of acres of land belong to ranchers who contribute little to our economic well-being as a county.
After we are done petitioning the Senate and the President about the Tsavo National Park, we are moving to ranches where we shall have a discussion on how the ranchers must part with huge tracts of land to be placed under irrigation.
9. You have refused to pay Sh500 million of unpaid bills. What is the reason for your decision?
Joseph N. Musyoka, Voi
I inherited pending bills of Sh1 billion. My administration was willing to pay some of the pending bills after verification of paperwork.
I realised that even after agreeing as a county to pay some of the pending bills, the suppliers of goods and services were unable to provide the county with genuine claims after the pending bills task force asked them to submit their claims.
Some of the projects have been completed on paper but at the actual locations nothing exists.
10. During your campaigns, you had promised to revive the county’s economy in 100 days by creating employment through the establishment of industries and boosting trade and business by abolishing taxes and levies charged on small-scale businesses. What is the progress so far?
Charo Mwachofi, Wundanyi
My resolve of restoring agriculture, turning Voi Township, which lies along the Northern Corridor, into a 24-hour economy, improving the education standards in the county, transforming health services, creating employment for our youth and closing the loopholes in revenue collection still remain a priority for my government.
Cabinet has already discussed a ranching policy that will put in place a permanent solution to the ranching challenge the county has faced for decades; a sand harvesting policy is also before the Cabinet and the proposals contained in the policy will see sand harvesters protected against exploitation.
A mining policy is also in place but as we speak, we have received Sh11 million from iron ore extraction.
With increased revenue collection of 18 percent due to the sealing of loopholes that had seen the county lose millions in uncollected revenue, the county is looking at a brighter future. The cost of doing business has also gone down under my administration.
11. How is the experience you gained as a journalist helping you in running the county?
Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi
If you need to feel the heartbeat of a village, town centre and eventually a county, radio is the place to go.
I have constantly interacted with the electorate through community radios and barazas, which has seen us pursue what is important and of immediate concern to our people.