Nothing can match the hype that came with the launch of the project of upgrading Ruring’u Stadium in Nyeri County two years ago.
Ruring’u is the biggest stadium in the Mt Kenya region and is meant to serve Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua and Nyeri counties.
Today, the facility is one big manmade crater overgrown with Kikuyu grass and shrubs. Work on the stadium stalled a year ago. The launch of the project in June 2017, presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta, was full of fanfare but so far, just 30 per cent of the project has been done.
The stadium, established in 1930s by the colonial government for high altitude training, was meant to be upgraded to international standards over a period of six months at a cost of Sh480 million, with the first phase costing Sh250 million. After its establishment, the colonial government leased the land from the local Aithiegeni clan with an agreement that the government would pay the clan Sh300 a year. But the declaration of the state of emergency in 1952 invalidated the deal.
In 1963, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta visited the stadium to receive Mau Mau fighters who had been fighting the colonialists, marking the end of their resistance against colonial rule.
In early 1980s, the government handed over the stadium to Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) to be used for hosting agricultural shows. Later, ASK moved to the larger Kabiruini grounds on the outskirts of Nyeri town, triggering a decade-long ownership wrangle between Nyeri Municipal Council as the former tried to develop it as a sports venue. Nyeri County Government joined the fray in 2013 but the State intervened in 2017 and the title deed handed to Nyeri County government, paving way for its upgrading.
At the height of 2017 General Election campaigns President Kenyatta stormed Nyeri with a bag of goodies, among them a promise to construct Ruring’u in six months. He launched its construction on June 22, 2017.
The project’s chief architect Solomon Kilonzo said once complete, the stadium will have capacity for 20,000 fans. It will have a tartan track, four gates, a VIP terrace with changing rooms, a sports gallery shop and a restaurant. Phase two will feature a swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts on the southern side of the stadium, and a warm-up track. Work on the facility stalled just three months after they had begun following delay by Kenya Power to relocate a power line in the stadium. The dispute was resolved several months later after the contractor paid Kenya Power Sh1.4 million to relocate the power line, and work resumed, albeit at a snail’s pace.
The contractor withdrew workers and machinery from the site in 2018 over six-month delay by government in releasing funds.
During the burial ceremony of the late Nyeri governor Wahome Gakuru, current governor Mutahi Kahiga appealed to the president to intervene and have work on the stadium finished.
Kahiga’s wish was that the commissioning of the new stadium should coincide with the inaugural Wahome Gakuru Memorial race on November 11, 2018, but it was never to be. During the race, Deputy President William Ruto promised that work on the stadium would be completed ‘soon’ but it has been a year of waiting. Both the old Ruring’u Stadium and the upcoming facility have been abandoned.
At the old stadium, an old presidential pavilion stands and wooden benches at the adjacent public dais have been vandalised. Other than President Kenyatta and his deputy Ruto, other government officials have visited the stadium before and after launch of construction work.
Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario visited the site on May 23, 2017 and reiterated the government’s intentions to upgrade the stadium. A month later, President Kenyatta launched construction work and planted a commemorative Mugumo tree at the main entrance.
Last year, Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia visited the site on October 9 and said that the government has money and his ministry was waiting for distribution. “The money is there and I can assure you it is only a matter of distribution from Treasury,” he said.
Deputy President Ruto added his voice to the matter on November 11, 2018 during Wahome Gakuru Memorial race, saying that the stadium will be completed the soonest. A fortnight ago, Sports Kenya officials inspected the stadium. The media was not invited, but Governor Kahiga later disclosed that the government had released Sh150 million to restart work on the stadium.
Work should be complete in four months but county executive for Sport Margaret Macharia has said that is subject to release of funds by government. The only thing complete is a perimeter wall constructed by Nyeri County government at a cost of Sh19 million.