OPINION: Kenyans need more information on Kisumu Port
In the last one month, I have engaged a number of residents of Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay on the ongoing rehabilitation of the port. The hype and interest previously on this project is gone. They feel left out. This largely attributed to little or no information around the project.
According to local media, getting information surrounding the state of the project has remained a major concern. While they say the Kenya Ports Authority has made attempts to open up, the conduct of local administrators in thwarting these efforts, they add, is worrying and frustrating.
Projects undertaken by public funds globally attract attention. The public tend to embrace these projects more if they know what is going on.
For the Kisumu Port, save for impromptu visits by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, not much is heard of it.
Whether this is a deliberate decision by the government or a few state mandarins, it is hurting this project.
Speaking to people; media and politicians from the area, the name of Kisumu East Deputy County Commissioner Josephine Ouko keeps coming up. The port lies in her jurisdiction and it is said she has the last word on what goes on in there.
Attempts by journalists to visit the project site and interact with the teams and get first hand information is greatly hampered.
Word has it that the launch date has been set. A team of Principal Secretaries and officials from Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Pipeline have been attending meetings in Kisumu.
Sources confiding that a date of between November 11-15 as the possible launch date has been settled on. As previously indicated, Kenya is keen to attract a retinue of regional presidents to attend the fete at the shores of Lake Victoria. Their host President Kenyatta is keen on exhibiting the works that have been done, in his words, “by locals”.
But the masses have been left out. Local politicians were full of praises of the project, when it began late last year. As is characteristic of them in this era of the handshake, they gloated as to the economic transformation it would have on the region. These voices have since gone silent, their loud silence maybe a pointer to the ‘secrecy that now is the project’.
Word on the street has it that recently a delegation led by a Cabinet Secretary, United Nations officials, a foreign envoy and county government officers were barred from the port. Their access denied ostensibly by the local administrators.
This further putting the strain between the locals and the project. Some of who were affected by relocations conducted by Kenya Railways in efforts to reclaim its lands.
A strategic communication plan is an integral part of a project of such magnitude. Stakeholders must be put in the know, State officers and their agents must be willing to share information to the media. This is important in ensuring the public buy in on a project funded by their taxes.
The government has bungled the communication around the rehabilitation of Kisumu port. This, either deliberately or through administrators that do not appreciate the transparency in conducting state affairs as envisioned in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
The Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Urban Development still has a window to salvage the situation. The Presidential Delivery Unit must swing into action and share information around this project.
The Kenya Ports Authority must be emphatic in ensuring that details of this project is revealed to avoid being caught in bureaucratic quagmire.