Nearly five years since the government announced plans to upgrade the Oloitokitok-Njukini-Taveta Road, the project is yet to kick off.
The government planned to upgrade the road to bitumen standards after it awarded a Sh5.3 billion contract to Skar Lot 32 Development Corporation Ltd two years ago.
In May 2019, Kenya National Highway Authority (Kenha) announced that the construction of the road will be undertaken under the Annuity Road Project Programme. Kenha announced that the government had already signed the project agreement with the company to pave way for budgeting by Treasury.
In October 2019, the contractor erected equipment in Rombo, Kajiado county to start works in November but left the site in December.
Since then, the site has been abandoned with equipment rotting away inside the guarded area.
Residents of Taita Taveta and Kajiado counties are now raising concerns whether the road will be constructed after the contractor abandoned the site.
The 67-kilometre road connects the two counties and is key to opening up the agriculture-rich area to markets in Nairobi and Mombasa cities.
The national government has been promising to rehabilitate the road but actual works are yet to start.
The government has already kicked off maintenance works after the residents petitioned the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure over the dilapidated state of the road. The pathetic condition of the road has been giving commuters nightmares especially during rainy seasons and brought untold suffering to residents of most rural areas along the Taveta-Njukuni-llasit stretch.
The December rains had rendered the road in the agriculture-rich area impassable, with farmers and traders counting losses.
Some sections of the roads have completely been washed away by floods originating from Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Some of the sections of the roads including bridges and culverts have been washed away by the floods that have caused extensive damage on the road.
Residents now say the road was last murrumed in the 1980’s and since then floods have damaged most sections especially in Kajiado.
“The state of the road paints a picture of neglect by the government because we have been complaining about it for decades,” said a Njukini resident Joseph Sila.
The road has been neglected for years. It is narrow, rough and impassable thereby giving commuters nightmares especially during rainy seasons.
Before the closure of the Kenya-Tanzania border, commuters preferred using the Tanzania route because it is well tarmacked.
“The maintenance works are slowly taking shape but the soil will be soggy when rains come and even make the situation worse,” Mr Sila said.
“The government promised to tarmac the road but that is where the story ends. The contractor left the site so we don’t know what the plans are,” said another resident Morris Mutiso.
Taveta and Rombo farmers said it is difficult to transport their produce to markets because of the poor state of the road.
In a previous interview, Kenha official in Taita Taveta county, Eng Samuel Kagwanja, said the tarmacking of the road is a priority for the government.
“There is a final agreement between the government and the contractor before the works start. The two parties are yet to agree on the financial part of the project,” he said.
Taveta MP Naomi Shaban has been pushing for years to have the road rehabilitated.
Ms Shaban said the ongoing maintenance works are meant to make the road passable during the rainy season.
“We are also avoiding politicians taking advantage of the situation to incite residents,” she said.
In January, hundreds of Taveta residents took the initiative to rehabilitate sections of the dilapidated road but were blocked by the government.