Lamu residents have a reason to smile following construction of the first ever inch of tarmac road in the frontier county, 55 years since independence.
The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) is building a 15-kilometre road at Mokowe Town, where the county government is headquartered, with 1.5 kilometres now complete with black top.
The Sh1.1 billion project is being undertaken by Liberty Builders Limited.
“We have completed tarmacking the first 1.5 out of the intended 15 kilometre road. Work is still in progress and we expect the whole project to be complete by November next year,” Kura acting director in-charge of policy strategy and compliance, Mohamed Abdulrashid, said Wednesday.
The project started in May last year and is expected to be complete by November 2019.
The road is expected to link all public facilities as well as improve security and access in the town and its environs.
Apart from Lamu, Kura is also undertaking construction of 143 kilometres of road in 14 counties at a total cost of Sh 6.9 billion under the Low Volume Seal Programme.
The project mainly targets marginalised county headquarters.
Before the partly-built Mokowe road, many Lamu residents said they had never set foot on tarmac and expressed disappointment over the area's marginalization by successive governments.
Since independence, locals have been using dusty and muddy roads including the main Lamu-Garsen road.
It is only with the advent of devolution that roads in the historical town were paved using cabro.
Locals interviewed said the road project is a game changer for the area in terms of economic and social development.
Mr Isaack Yunus, a youth leader, said the project has employed many local youth.
“The road construction project has created employment opportunities for us. It has generally helped to empower the area residents by improving our living standards in all aspects including access to government services at our county headquarters,” said Mr Yunus.
Ms Amina Abubakar, an entrepreneur, said following expectations of LAPSSET project and importance of Lamu Port to the county, improvement of access in Mokowe will automatically create many opportunities and improved living standards.
“Major investments will be attracted to the new urban town with the increased provision of services and infrastructure,” said Ms Amina.
Lamu Tourism, Trade and Industrialization executive, Dismas Mwasambu, said the road will open up Mokowe and the County to more trade and tourism opportunities.
“This is one project that has influenced economic development. We have seen growth in trade and many investors have already been attracted to Mokowe town which borders the Lapsset project...I believe once Kura completes the road project, major activities will be shifted to the Mokowe mainland from Lamu Island,” Mr Mwasambu said.
Locals now say they want the national government to hasten the construction of the 135 kilometre Lamu-Garsen road.
The road is the major connecting point between Lamu and the rest of the country.
Despite President Kenyatta launching the tarmacking of Garsen-Lamu road in March last year, work is yet to begin.
It is the sole entry and exit point to and from Lamu County by land, but is riddled with potholes leading to attacks by criminals including Al-Shabaab when motorists slow down.
Terrorists have taken advantage of the poor state of the road to set up Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambushes on security and passenger vehicles with the most vulnerable points including Milihoi, Lango la Simba and Nyongoro areas.