The construction of a Sh18 billion road linking Kenya and Tanzania has resumed, a week after a Chinese firm suspended work citing maltreatment and unnecessary levies from Kisii County officials.
The construction of the Isebania-Ahero road resumed after local authorities met with officials of Third Engineering Bureau of China City Construction company and reached a truce.
Kisii County Secretary Patrick Lumumba held a series of consultative meetings with engineers Charles Obuon and Harrison Gakuo from the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA).
Mr Gakuo confirmed that construction materials are back on site and construction of the Mosocho-Oyugis highway has resumed.
“We agreed to harmoniously work together and ensure that the tarmacking of the road is completed within two months. The contractor also agreed to employ more locals on site,” said Mr Gakuo.
Mr Lumumba said the "little misunderstandings" that were there have been ironed out and they do not expect such problems again.
Third Engineering Bureau of China City Construction company’s workers had last week protested and barricaded the busy road for hours over what they termed as continued harassment from the county enforcement officers who had earlier arrested ten of their colleagues who stayed in custody for a day.
Seven casual labourers of the company sustained injuries.
“My workers have been fearing for their security as the county government has been asking us to pay for the water we fetch from a nearby river, something that has forced us to close our site at Mosocho,” said the company’s manager Mr Jay Zhao.
Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka last week led hundreds of his constituents in protests demanding that the Chinese firm resumes its work.
The protestors matched from Nyamataro area to the County Commissioner Godfrey Kigochi's office who called on them to be patient as they fix issues.
“We want locals to be also employed by the firm. We must benefit from such projects,” said Mr Onyonka.
Governor James Ongwae on Tuesday instructed the County’s Revenue office and other departments with related interests in the ongoing construction not to interfere with the contractor.
Pay for water
Employees of the firm had said that county officers had demanded the Chinese pay for the water they used from Nyakoe and Riverside rivers.
But Mr Ongwae denied claims that his county had approached the Chinese firm to levy fee for water drawn from local rivers.
“No one should interfere with the ongoing works. It is unfortunate that the small misunderstanding was blown out of proportion by political forces,” the governor said.
He said that the county has not asked for any revenue from the Chinese contractors but urged the Chinese firm to stick to contractual obligations by ensuring other road users are not inconvenienced because of the ongoing works.
“Our national government is paying heavily for this project. It will be important that the work is completed. But while at it the contractor must also respect the welfare of other stakeholders. We will support them when they come to the site and we are asking the government to provide them with security,” said Mr Ongwae.
The road project starts at Isebania (Kenya/Tanzania boarder) in Migori County. It traverses Homa-bay, Kisii and Nyamira counties and ends in Ahero, Kisumu County.
The highway will form part of the A1 Road, which connects South Sudan to northern Tanzania through Kenya.