For the last six years, Tharaka-Nithi County residents have waited patiently for the tarmacking of the 28-kilometre Chuka-Kaareni Road.
What baffles them is that only six kilometres of the road that connects Chuka town — the county’s largest commercial centre — and Kathwana, the county headquarters, have been paved.
The residents have now resorted to demonstrations, demanding that the construction of the road, which began in 2014, is completed urgently.
On Tuesday, they decried the deplorable state of the road, saying it has caused many fatal accidents, with the recent victim being a boda boda rider who fell on an open trench and died.
The residents barricaded the road with stones, logs and lit tyres, paralysing transport for hours before police dispersed them.
They have vowed to continue blocking the road until the stalled construction works resume.
“If the contractor has taken six years to construct only six kilometres, it means that the entire road is likely to take almost 30 years if he moves with the same speed,” said Mr Johnson Muthuri, a resident.
County leaders led by Senator Kithure Kindiki and Governor Muthomi Njuki have been accusing the contractor — Westbuild General Contractor Limited — of laxity and poor workmanship.
However, the contractor argues that the work financed by the national government in collaboration with the European Union has been moving slowly due to the terms of contract that compels him to use labour-based technology, which restricts him from using heavy machines.
The contractor also cites the delay in releasing funds, saying it has been making it impossible to pay workers and buy construction materials.
Efforts by leaders led Deputy President William Ruto and Prof Kindiki to have the tender terminated and awarded to another person were frustrated after the contractor moved to court.
On July 1, 2018, the DP while on a tour of the county ordered immediate revocation of the road’s tender.
He accused the contractor of laxity and failing to comply with construction timelines.
“I direct the ministry concerned to cancel the contract with immediate effect and award it to a contractor, who is ready to work,” he ordered the county’s Road Ministry.
At the same time, the contractor is working on Kirubia-Kambandi-Kairini road, which has also stalled.
He had also been assigned Gatunga-Marimanti-Chiakariga road before the tender was terminated due to ‘laxity’, and the work given to a Chinese contractor.
Due to the bad state of the Chuka-Kaareni road, most motorists now prefer using Chuka-Kawanjara-Ishiara road that cuts through Embu County, a distance of about 90 kilometres.
Public service vehicles charge travellers Sh300 for the 30 kilometres journey, a distance that they could charge at most Sh100 if the road was in good state.
The road is partly to blame for the slow growth of the county headquarters.
“It is too expensive to transport farm produce from Chuka to county headquarters at Kathwana,” said Mr John Kimathi, a business man from Chuka town.
Many vehicles, including those belonging to county government and its employees have broken down on the road a number of times.