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Sh4.1 billion road project in Murang’a raises some dust

The road is described by the locals as Nyoka Nyoka due to it’s snaking, meandering design along the scenic deep valleys and highlands across this land. Kangema-Gacharage C70 road that will connect upper Murang’a region to the Thika Superhighway.

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To residents of Murang’a the sound of tractors involved in the construction of a road they have nicknamed  Nyoka Nyoka brings trepidation to their hearts.

They are afraid  that by the time the construction of the road is through, their rights will have been downtrodden like the huge stones the roaring tractors are crashing to make way for the Kangema-Gacharage C70 road that will connect upper Murang’a region to the Thika Superhighway.

This will enable travellers within the uplands of Murang’a County to link directly to the superhighway without using the usual route. The road connects Kangema, Kiharu, Kigumo and Kandara constituencies and commuters from parts of Nyeri will pass through the road to get to the superhighway. The road is described by the locals as Nyoka Nyoka due to it’s snaking, meandering design along the scenic deep valleys and highlands across this land.

But the implementation of the multi-billion shilling road project is facing controversy over allegations of  violating the rights of land owners.  The victims, most of them peasant farmers are scheduled to move out of the land to pave way for the project but they are complaining of  destruction of their source of livelihoods.  They are being relocated to create a corridor where  the 35 kilometre road will pass in the inland of this county.

Among  the properties to be destroyed are some 41 graves on private land set to be exhumed to clear way for the project.  The residents are strongly opposed to disturbing the dead in their graves, saying it is against  their culture and tradition.   James Maina, one of the victims, has been rendered homeless after giant tractors working on the project dug out his homestead.

As a result Maina’s three acre piece of land has been cut in the middle by the aggressive earth moving machines. Parts of the buildings in his homestead are left hanging precariously on a cliff, forcing the family to seek  for accommodation from neighbours.  A distraught Maina explains that the land, which his family depended on to grow food crops and generate income is now being destroyed by the tractors.

“I’m left without means to raise an income or grow food to feed my family, which has been subjected to abject poverty,” he said.   Maina’s  200 coffee trees, bananas, avocados and animal sheds, which generated an income for him have been uprooted.   The 37-year-old peasant who was an established farmer in his own right is today doing casual labour in the area to survive.

Maina’s wife, Nancy Wambui,  35, bitterly complains their rights are violated  by the project implementers. Wambui says work on the project, which involved using  their land was started before they agreed on compensation and relocation of  the residents along the road corridor.  She complains that her children are sent home regularly for lack of school fees because the family has been left without any means of earning an income.

Mwangi Njagi, 70,  accuses the valuers of destroying their property, before agreement with land owners is satisfactorily achieved.   The elderly Njagi explains that the victims were not effectively involved in valuation of their land and property.  He says  the property  was undervalued  and most  of the  developments on  the land  were  not  included  in the  compensation recommendations.

He cites crops, houses, livestock buildings, trees and water sources as some of the properties the  valuers ignored during a survey of the land.  He says the area  has been left without water following the destruction of pipes connecting their homes to a community initiated water supply project.  This water project funded by the locals is also missing among the public facilities   to be compensated, he says.

Bernard Kariuki Ndegwa a local shop owner has been directed to surrender  a building housing his business to give room for the project.  Ndegwa 76 says he built the premises with his retirement savings where he runs a village business   to keep him going. Like others Ndegwa accuses the valuers of undervaluing the property and failing to subject the process to a  transparent, open and accountable process in accordance  to the constitution.

“We were not actively involved in making decisions on the compensation and safeguarding of human  rights in the process,” he observes. Kiharu Member of Parliament Irungu Kang’ata admits rights of the victims have been abused by the implementing agencies. Kang’ata, a lawyer, argues the helpless landowners were not properly represented during the negotiations of valuation of the land and property to be taken away to create space  for the project.

He claims the valuation process was not objective, consultative and representative of the interests of the peasants. Kang’ata notes human rights were disrespected in moving out the victims and destroying their livelihoods without adequate compensation against the principles of the bill of rights in the constitution.    The legislator  says  the amount of payment proposed by the government valuers is understated and not relevant to the current property market of the affected resources.

“The compensation process for the residents should be renegotiated and experts to represent the interests of the victims included so as to mainstream their rights in the project before they give away their land,” the Mp said.   However, he supports the project, noting it will have positive impact on social, economic and agricultural  growth in the region.   He observes trading centres along  the new road will attract better business  and the distance to Nairobi and Thika will be shorter using the road.

The MP further says it will decongest the main Murang’a Kenol / Thika route by providing an alternative way and open up the inland parts of the county for accelerated development. A consultant engineer Kuria Mwangi points to the fact that the construction  of the road was not creatively designed. He feels the road should follow the original route without taking private land, thus inconveniencing the neigbours.

Kuria blames the road designer who changed the route without any sound professional  reason saying this will make it unnecessarily  expensive  to construct the road and displace residents for no good reason.  He notes the road was existing on the route before and had adequate space for upgrading to bitumen without need for land from the neighbouring residents.

According to the project deputy manager engineer Judy Songok it will cost the taxpayers Sh4.1 billion to foot the bill. Songok says the valuation and compensation   was   carried out by the ministry of lands and the residents  agreed on the terms.  She admits the compensation agreed upon has not been released  to the victims which is contributing to delay in building the project.

Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHa) is charged with the responsibility to build the road aimed at improving infrastructure to attract rapid development in this region.

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Construction of Kangema – Gacharage Rd(C70) by SS metha

  • Contract value: Kshs.4,112,180,163.00
  • Periodic Maintenance of Uthiru-Kamandura (A104)
  • Contract Value Kshs. 179,707,637.00

The People

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