As the dust settles on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s three-day visit to Nyanza, some residents feel critical issues were neither mentioned nor addressed.
Fishermen, farmers and small-scale traders say the President only concentrated on the “big push” investments.
There was no mention of reviving the cotton industry and Kisumu Cotton Mills (Kicomi) that used to employ more than 3,000 people.
The President never touched on rice farming, an industry that has been crippled by imports, lack of market and mismanagement.
Mr Kenyatta said he would return to Kisumu to commission completed projects.
Addressing the nation at Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium during Madaraka Day celebrations on Tuesday, President Kenyatta mentioned the 1,000-acre Kisumu Special Economic Zone.
“This initiative will provide immense opportunities for value addition of agricultural products, from the entirety of the western region and enhance the blue economy of Lake Victoria basin,” he said.
During the launch of Kisumu Shipyard, President Kenyatta said he would be back in August to open the Sh24 billion Koru-Soin dam.
While he stressed that his focus is on big investments, the expected launch of several projects did not take place.
They include the 216-kilometre Nakuru-Kisumu railway line and the new passenger train terminus.
As a result, the President and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chief Raila Odinga could not make the planned train trip from Nakuru to Kisumu.
Others projects are the Mbita Causeway, the Sh16 billion Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu high voltage power transmission line, the Sh599 million Uhuru market where traders displaced during the modernisation of the port are to be settled and the Sh4.2 billion Lake Basin Mall.
The railway is a key component of the planned revival of Kisumu port, where the President launched the MV Uhuru, the shipyard and the Marine School on Monday.
An itinerary that had been circulated before the President’s arrival on Sunday had listed more than 15 projects that he was to launch.
Most, however, are still incomplete.
The only others Mr Kenyatta launched were the Sh2.2 billion Siaya-Bondo water and sanitation project, the 277 million Last Mile connectivity, the Sh1.4 billion Kodiaga-Akala road and the Kisumu Africities Convention Centre.
A Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (KSGA) official told the Saturday Nation that Nzoia, Sony, Muhoroni and Chemelil factories owe farmers more than Sh1 billion and their debts continue piling.
KSGA Secretary-General Richard Ogendo said members expected the President to grant the factories approval to acquire machines.
Farmers also hoped the Kenya Sugar Board would be ordered to give some factories grants.
“We expected the President and Mr Odinga to address this issue. Farmers cannot pay their children’s school fees. We have nothing to celebrate on this Madaraka Day or the President’s visit,” Mr Ogendo said.
He added that State-owned sugar millers earmarked for privatisation are rundown and need money for refurbishing.
Fishing sector players said the industry needs processing plants and modern gear.
They also complained of harassment by Uganda and Tanzanian security officials, pollution and depleted stock.
There is a significant gap between the fish demand and production in Kenya. The annual demand is 600,000 tonnes while production is 150,000 tonnes.
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Mr Eliud Owalo, a member of the Luo-Nyanza Economic Caucus, said the President’s visit was political “and meant to save the crumbling (March 9, 2018) handshake from eminent collapse as opposed to a feasible development”.
He said Mr Kenyatta should have utilised the visit “to espouse a feasible and realistic policy framework that facilitates a tangible development agenda for the region”.
According to Mr Owalo, development challenges facing the region are known and requisite strategic responses are properly articulated in existing policy blueprints.
What has been lacking, he said, is the political goodwill and financial resources to facilitate the programmes.
“I expected the President to outline a clear matrix for desirable development and revitalisation programmes in the sugarcane, fishing, cotton, tourism and other industries,” Mr Owalo said.
“They should be backed up with adequate financing and tied to specific timeframes and performance indicators. Anything short of this is nothing but a political gimmick.”
However, Mr Owalo added that the government is broke and may not be in a position to fund the new projects.