One on One: Nakuru is rising and there is no looking back – Governor Lee Kinyanjui

Nakuru is the latest town to be conferred City status. Channel one’s Daniel Wahome spoke with Nakuru County Governor Hon Lee Kinyanjui on the bid to elevate Nakuru from Municipal to City Standards and what this means to the county.

Background:

On Thursday, 3 June 2021, the Senate debated and passed the report of the Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on an application to have Nakuru Municipality elevated to City Status.

The report will be forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta who, upon review, will issue a charter that will make Nakuru the fourth City in Kenya after Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu.

Nakuru was established as a town by colonial settlers in 1904 and granted municipal status in 1952. It has had a history of enterprise, sport, and was once considered to be a hotbed of politics.

The pursuit of City status means that the history will live on, albeit with more scrutiny from members of the public.

Here is the transcript of the interview:

Daniel Wahome (DW): What is concept behind having Nakuru elevated to City Status?

Governor Lee Kinyanjui (LK): I want to confirm that from 2017 we mapped out the whole of Nakuru, specifically the Municipal part of it, and we looked at ways in which to spur economic growth, increase the infrastructural investment, and also create employment for our people. It then became necessary to evaluate the categorization of Nakuru at that particular time, and after further consultation, it was felt that we needed to elevate ourselves so that we could reach a level where we could attract more revenue streams.

We therefore made an application through the County Assembly. I set up a committee that prepared a report on the issues that were required for us to achieve City Status. We later on presented that report to the Senate. It has been a long journey until the 3rd of June when the Senate assented to our request.

The most important question people ask is: do you want to develop and become a city or do you become a city and attract development?

DW: A little background; Since becoming a town in 1904, a City in 1952, the legacy of Nakuru has been its cleanliness. Tell us about the water, sanitation, and waste management status of Nakuru at the moment.

LK: When you have a good reputation, it also has the unintended consequences of attracting more people. With a bigger population than what you can host, you have all those attendant issues like trading places, and cleanliness. We have decided to keep the theme of cleanliness. This starts with the public not littering the town and we want to make sure that it stays this way.

Secondly, Nakuru has a unique centrality. It is 150 kilometres from Nairobi, Nyeri, and Eldoret; and about 200 kilometres from Kisumu. This centrality makes it possible for any entrepreneur who wants to set base. Our role is to improve the infrastructure to help us achieve our target.

DW: Nakuru is a transit town with most of the West-bound traffic going through the town. Alongside this, you could tell us more about the plans for public transport.

LK: With respect to road connections, we are well connected due to the centrality that I mentioned. However, the road from Nairobi is congested. To mitigate this, at one level, there is the revival of the metre gauge railway line which will help us ease the burden arising from goods transported by road. Secondly, there is the construction of a dual carriage way that will ensure better traffic flow. We anticipate that a drive from Nairobi to Nakuru will take an hour and twenty minutes. We also started upgrading the Lanet Airstrip to the level of an Airport to give Nakuru an aviation connection.

DW: Tell us about Health Services in Nakuru.

LK: When it comes to health we have looked at it from an infrastructure point of view. This means we have increased the bed capacity in our hospitals, increased the number of surgical theatres, set up Level 4 hospitals in every sub-county. We have introduced the offering of services that were not available in Nakuru including oncology which saw many people travel to Nairobi for Cancer treatment. On the issue of personnel, we have sought specialists, so that some conditions that would mean that patients are referred elsewhere are addressed within reach.

In partnership with the national government, we are coming up with a mental hospital in Gilgil.

We have also adopted a preventive approach to health by investing in community health workers. These cadre advises the public on their dietary and lifestyle issues that may adversely affect their health.

DW: Back to Nakuru being in a transit corridor, how are the emergency response services?

LK: We are on the major highway which means that we witness a lot of road traffic accidents. We want to upgrade our emergency response capability and this going a long way to reducing our risk factor. Remember, every City has a risk factor.

DW: Nakuru County has the fourth highest revenue collection base after Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kiambu Counties. One of the factors that the Senate made a strong consideration on was the capacity of Nakuru sustain this. What plan is in place to ensure that revenue collection grows and sustains service delivery while making it attractive for the residents?

LK: Revenue collection is an important aspect of every City because there are expenses that have to be met. It is important that we maintain an efficiency angle and we have established the Nakuru Revenue Authority to achieve this.

We are trying to employ technology coupled with professionalism to achieve efficiency. Our focus is not necessarily to increase the rates, but have a higher compliance level: those who are supposed to pay, do pay and pay on time.

We have noted in the past that only about 40% of the people pay for the services. That means that means that the paying population gets overburdened and that is the conversation that we want to have with the residents.

DW: NaKuru County is working with the World Bank’s Kenya Urban Support Programme. What is the effect of this facility?

LK: The Kenya Urban Support Programme was set up to help municipalities and urban areas to develop their infrastructure, and in particular to develop resilience to meet the challenges of urbanisation.

Some of the programmes in Nakuru are the Afraha Stadium, the expanded Fire Service, drainage works, and moving forward we will install street lights, traffic lights and control systems to make cities more liveable.

Another target area is non-motorised transport. This covers walkways, lanes for cyclists, and wheelchair users. This will take the fear of walking on roads with cars from people. This will encourage a better lifestyle and reduce the health risks that come with a sedentary kind of life.

DW: Nakuru is known as the County of Opportunities. Which ones exist for former, current, and future residents of Nakuru?

LK: We are coming up with a document that will outline this. Are you a farmer, what are the opportunities? Are you a medical professional, what are the opportunities? Are you an industrialist, what are your opportunities? In a nut shell, in every aspect of life that you may think of, Nakuru will offer that kind of opportunity. If you talk of transport and logistics, ICT, real estate development, agribusiness, they exist. We really need to redefine who we are.

Let me add that Nakuru has geo-thermal power which if well tapped will attract industrialists.

All these conversations will translate to more opportunities, and depending on where you are you will find space in Nakuru.

DW: Thank You Governor Lee Kinyanjui.

  

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