Where’s the water? Everybody’s taking credit

DRY TAPS: Kajiado East MP Peris Tobiko, nominated Senator Mary Seneta, and the county government all say they have brought water to Kitengela

By Our Reporter

Although Kitengela residents are yet to taste the water they have been promised for the past four years, they are unsure who thank for it.

Already, Kajiado East MP Peris Tobiko and nominated Senator Mary Seneta are taking credit for the about-to-be-brought but yet-to-be-seen water.

Tobiko has told anyone who cares to listen that she told President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a raised voice, when he made a stopover in Kitengela on his way to Arusha for a regional meeting, about the suffering the people of Kitengela have undergone over the past four years without clean drinking water.

Not to be outdone, Seneta took to social media to tell all and sundry that her efforts “in both the 11th Parliament and the Senate” to ensure that the people of Kitengela get water had finally borne fruit.

Officials from the county government, on their part, claimed that a delegation to State House led by Governor Joseph ole Lenku had appealed to the president to intervene and ensure that the people of Kitengela got water.

The sudden urge to claim credit was inspired by a visit to Tobiko’s office by Water Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu on February 18. During that visit, the PS announced that President Uhuru Kenyatta had directed that Ksh30 million be set aside to ensure that Kitengela residents get water as soon as possible.

The jostling over who owned the bragging rights for the president’s intervention provided yet another platform for the two politicians to renew their intermittent hostilities.

Perhaps miffed that Seneta was taking too much credit, Tobiko fired off a statement of her own on social media: “It is a fact the current efforts and synergies are as a result of the president’s intervention after my appeal to him on his stopover at Kitengela enroute to Arusha.”

She ended with the hashtag #golookforcheappublicityelsewhere.

Stung, Senata had a comeback of her own: “Mhesh with all due respect as we appreciate your shouting about water on the roadside… it has taken the effort of all leaders to bring this one out, everyone in Kitengela knows this… our joy is to see this being actualized.”

She also concluded with a hashtag of her own: #MajikwakilabomaKitengela.

And to really drive Tobiko’s point home, one of the MP’s supporters took a picture of the page where the Water PS had signed in the visitors’ book.

A day after the social media fireworks, Michael Semera, in what proved to be his very first assignment as Water CEC, where he had been moved from the Finance docket, camped outside Eastmatt Supermarket in Kitengela to give details of how the people would be accessing water.

Water, after all, is a devolved function and it is rightly supposed to be handled by the county government and precisely by Semera’s department.

As all these events were unfolding, the irony was not lost upon thirsty Kitengela residents that the county government hosted the inaugural Maji Awards in Kitengela “What was there to celebrate?” posed Hellen Naishorua on the choice of Kitengela. “This is probably the urban centre in Kajiado with the most acute water problem.”

Naishorua, a resident of Kitengela, expressed her exasperation in the Letters to the Editor section of this newspaper last month.

In her letter, Naishorua wondered why eight years after devolution, water provision in Kitengela and its surroundings was still being done by EPZ. The EPZ, she noted, “is a consumer of water and should not be the one supplying water to fellow consumers.”

It seemed that Naishorua’s prayers were answered, as PS Irungu ordered that EPZ — which buys water from the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company — should stop supplying water.

It was just as well, for EPZ had stopped supplying the people of Kitengela with water four years ago.

“The worst injustice ever to be perpetrated on the people of Kitengela was the decision to allow EPZ to distribute water,” Joe Modie, a Kitengela resident for 10 years, told Kajiado Star. “Such was the impunity they exhibited, that when they discontinued the water their staff resorted to colluding with crooked water vendors who sold water at exorbitant prices through water bowsers.”

A property agent who sought anonymity alleged that although EPZ had discontinued water supply to Kitengela residents, there were flats opposite the EPZ complex, where senior company employees live, that still had fresh water connected from EPZ.

When Kitengela residents were not buying water at extortionate prices from the water bowsers, they were relying on salty water from the various boreholes sunk in the area.

Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku had, late last year, banned the sale of salty water. The directive, he said, was aimed at protecting consumers. “No licences should be issued to water vendors before inspection is done to ascertain that the water being sold is clean and fresh.”

That order was largely observed in breach, as vendors continued selling salty water openly.

Another of PS Irungu’s directives was that eight water kiosks be set up around Kitengela, where residents would buy water at the reduced cost of Ksh3 per 20 litre jerry can, which would come as a huge relief as the same container was previously going for Ksh50.

However, while speaking at the Kitengela PCEA Township Church on March 10, Tobiko questioned the logic behind water kiosks, when the water can be piped to where people live.

Modie supported Tobiko’s sentiments, wondering what would happen to people who had connected water to their houses at their own cost.

“Now that EPZ will no longer be supplying water to us, they should now refund the Ksh20,000 we paid to them as connection fee,” said Modie.

Following the directive by the PS, EPZ has already closed down the water vending shop along Namanga Road, opposite Savannah Cement.

Residents are now crossing their fingers and hoping that the president’s directive will be implemented and their thirst finally quenched.

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