Mr. Speaker Sir., let me begin by thanking you most sincerely for your warm welcome, and allowing me give my State of the County address to this August House, pursuant to section 30 (2) (k) of the County Governments Act, 2012 and Standing Order No. 22 of the County Assembly of Meru Standing Orders.
It is always my honor and great privilege to address you. I want to take this opportunity to thank all honorable Members for turning out in large numbers; and for the tremendous support that they have given to my Government and its programs since we assumed office four and half years ago.
It is my hope and prayer that with our warm and cordial relationship we shall continue to work together, and to do everything in our power to make Meru Great.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker Sir, and in accordance with the protocol of this House, allow me to recognize my able Deputy Governor, Hon. Titus Ntuchiu, the County Executive Committee Members, County Government Officers, the media fraternity, the distinguished guests seated in the gallery, and all the people of Meru County who will be watching and listening to me from our various radio and TV stations.
Honorable Members, on 31st July 2019, I made my first State of the County Address before this House. The speech was titled: PROMISES MADE; PROMISES KEPT. I sought to highlight the progress made by my Government towards fulfilment of my election pledges.
Mr. Speaker Sir, our general vision in Meru is Making Meru Great by creating a prosperous, united and happy society. In realizing that dream, we made 14 promises to the people of Meru. The following is an overview of my Government’s efforts in fulfilling the promises we made to our people, so far.
Visionary Leadership and an All-Inclusive Governance System.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the first promise was on visionary, accessible and consultative leadership. I am happy to report that despite the unprecedented and unforeseen challenges posed by the calamities of COVID-19, locusts, prolonged droughts, and frustrating irregular budgetary releases from the Treasury, my Government has made very commendable efforts, and achieved tremendous success in fulfilment of our election pledges.
Mr. Speaker Sir, we have established an all-inclusive Government, with CEC members, CO’s, Directors and staff from all the three sub-tribes and regions of Meru. I have appointed people from Igembe, Tigania and Imenti to senior positions in my Government, which reflects the true face of Meru.
I have established a Ward Development Fund which equally distributes available resources to all the 45 wards of Meru County. In the last four years, we have disbursed Kshs. 2.7billion to the wards through this system, and this financial year we are disbursing a further 450 million making a total of Kshs. 3.15 billion.
We have created the Meru Economic and Social Council (MESC), a high-level think tank which brings together the best intellectuals, professionals and entrepreneurs of Meru, as an intellectual platform, to generate ideas and develop a holistic vision for rapid socio-economic transformation of Meru County.
MESC has, through a very consultative process, developed Meru Vision 2040, which was launched on 5th December 2019. MESC has identified several flagship projects which are being implemented by my Government.
We have also established many advisory boards and committees such as market committees, water committees and bursary committees, to enhance community participation in our programs. Meru County Government is a people’s Government. It is truly a Government of the people of Meru, by the people of Meru, for the people of Meru.
Mr. Speaker Sir, we promised to provide water in all the wards. Water is one of the key priorities of my Government. We have done a lot in alleviating water poverty in our wards. We already have 195 high yielding solar powered boreholes mostly in the semi-arid areas of Buuri, lower Imenti, Igembe and Tigania regions at a total cost of Kshs. 1.071 billion.
This financial year we are drilling, equipping, rehabilitating and solarizing 45 boreholes. This will translate to 240 boreholes at the end of our 5-year term. We have also constructed 17 gravity water and irrigation projects at a total cost of Kshs. 230 million benefitting over 30,000 households.
1200 community water projects have been supported by my Government with tanks, pipes and construction of intakes at a cost of over Kshs. 282 million.
Mr Speaker Sir, this is tremendous achievement in the water sector given that the previous government managed to drill only 28 boreholes for 5 years. Out of these, only 12 were fully equipped, while the remaining 16 were not operationalized. During the same period, only 22 water projects were initiated across the county. We intend to complete, equip and operationalize the boreholes started by the previous Government this financial year. This work has already started.
Mr Speaker Sir, we promised to improve agriculture to increase food and cash for our people. My Government has invested over Kshs. 535 million with over 95 percent of this money going directly to the farmers.
So far, we have procured and supplied 223,0000 macadamia and avocado seedlings, compared to 98,000 avocado seedlings supplied by the previous government. We have supplied 28 metric tonnes of certified seed potatoes to potato farmers.
We have commenced construction of mango processing plant in Mwanganthia and a banana winery plant. Tigania cooperative society and Tigania West cooperative society will benefit from Kshs. 24 million which has been earmarked for construction of macadamia aggregation and processing sheds. Abogeta West Avocado cooperative union will also benefit from Kshs. 16 million for construction of a value addition facility.
We are working with the Ministry of Trade, Industrialization and Enterprise Development to open new miraa markets. The County Government has supported delegations of the National Government, County Government, and Miraa farmers and traders to seek new markets in Djibouti and DRC Congo.
Currently, we are disbursing funds under the Emergency Locust Response Project to 235 groups in Amwathi, Kangeta, Muthaara, Thangatha, Athwana, Timau, Nyaki East, Kiagu and Mitunguu wards, at a cost of Kshs. 37.6 million.
We have made plans through Meru Investment and Development Corporation (MCIDC) to support value addition factories for bananas, potatoes, avocado and macadamia in the next five years.
Mr Speaker Sir, we promised to develop world class tourism in the County. Promotion of tourism remains one of the top priorities of my Government. My Government has taken unprecedented steps to open up mountain tourism in the County.
We have opened and maintained a 22 kilometers road, to one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the world-Lake Ellis, in Mount Kenya. We have held a number of events on the Lake Ellis route including 4 x 4 challenge to encourage people to visit the lake.
My Government has worked with Athletics Kenya (AK) to introduce an international mountain running championship in the County. The first and second editions of the Mt Kenya Mountain Running Championship which were held in 2020 and 2022 respectively at the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership (KESAL) attracted hundreds of participants.
The event is very successful and is now an internationally recognized event after having been included in the Athletics Kenya calendar of events. We are working with Lewa Conservancy, KWS, KFS and local CFAs to create a black rhino and mountain bongo sanctuary in Marania forest.
Arrangements have been made with international donors to bring back mountain bongos which are facing extinction in Kenya from Florida, USA at a total cost of Kshs. 200 million.
We are also discussing with Huangshan Municipal Government of China to introduce cable cars in Mount Kenya National Park to accelerate the flow of tourists in the mountain.
Meru Investment and Development Corporation (MCIDC) are exploring a partnership with the proprietors of the Old Moses Camp to develop a premier tourist mountain hotel.
We are developing Lake Nkunga as a prime picnic, and family entertainment facility, which will include boat riding, hiking and a zip line, and an arboretum to boost tourism in Meru Municipality.
Mr Speaker Sir, my Government is aware that there has been very little tourism taking place in Meru National Park, because of poor roads and serious shortage of bed space. We are working with Ministry of Tourism and KWS to create eco-tourism lodges in Meru National park and to aggressively market it as a top tourism destination.
We are also promoting cultural tourism. We have embarked on construction of a mega Njuri Ncheke Cultural Centre at Nchiru at a cost of Kshs. 60 million to promote creative industry, Kimeru culture, traditions, song and dance, like in the Bomas of Kenya.
Mr. Speaker Sir, we promised to provide education to all our children. We have continued to invest heavily in our education sector. So far, we have disbursed Kshs. 562 million as bursaries. We have also constructed 290 ECDE classrooms compared to 100 classrooms completed by the former government.
We have spent Kshs. 25 million to procure ECDE learner’s books, teacher’s guides and curriculum designs. In total, we have invested Kshs. 550 million to the ECDE projects alone. The demand is huge and we shall enhance investment in this sector.
The previous Government managed to construct only 20 workshops in 5 years. We have completed 40 VTC workshops since we came into office four and half years ago. We have also constructed ablution blocks, hostels and initiated new VTCs as well as provision of modern industrial training equipment at a cost of Kshs. 88 million.
Although, primary and secondary school, and university education fall within the mandate of the National Government, my Government has collaborated and worked closely with the County Education Board, and other stakeholders to improve the quality of education in Meru.
Mr. Speaker Sir, as the Honourable Members of this House can attest, we have been working very closely with them to improve road networks in all the wards. We have opened up new roads, graded, murramed and compacted existing ones, improved drainage systems and constructed bridges and culverts, and cabro paved many towns and market centres across the County.
So far, we have graded 2,400 kilometres of roads, and murammed 605.5 kilometres. 31 bridges have been constructed and over 2,000 gabions erected to control erosion and storm water. 4.9 kilometres have been improved to bitumen standards, and 48 markets paved to cabro standards. Currently, we are improving more roads in preparation for the rainy season.
Due to our good working relationship and cooperation with the National Government, the National Government through Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has agreed to construct a dual carriage road across Meru Municipality at a total cost of Kshs. 10 billion. The contract has already been advertised and the works are expected to commence soon.
Mr. Speaker Sir., we promise better healthcare, and better health services for our people. I am happy to report that despite the challenges and setbacks forced on us by COVID-19, we have registered tremendous success in this area. For the first time in the history of Meru, we have a Renal Unit, an Intensive Care Unit, and a cancer centre at Meru Level 5 Hospital.
Last year, we opened a histopathology lab at Meru, the first of its kind in the region, to enhance cancer testing and reduce the waiting period for results. I wish to thank the Honorable Members for passing the Meru Cancer Institute Bill which has paved way for improved cancer research, screening, care and treatment.
My Government has already allocated 2.5 acres near the Meru Hospital for construction of an ultra-modern cancer centre. As a result of the visibility we created around cancer in Meru, the National Government is in the process of constructing an ultra-modern cancer centre at Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital at a cost of Kshs. 1.6 billion.
Construction of a new ward at the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital is ongoing at a cost of Kshs. 350 million and will be completed this financial year.
We thank this house for passing the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital Bill. This Bill has paved way for us to make this Hospital a parastatal, like Kenyatta Hospital.
We intend to make it a level 6, medical centre of excellence in this region. We have also commenced upgrading of Kinoru Dispensary into a level 3 facility to decongest Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital.
We have constructed over 50 new dispensaries and health centers across the County, including 4 maternity theatres in Mutuati, Muthaara, Timau and Githongo.
Mr Speaker Sir, we have made history by simultaneously establishing four medical training centres in Maua, Kanyakine, Miathene and Kangeta, all of which should be opened in the course of this year.
We have made a fundamental shift in our healthcare strategy to put more emphasis and resources in promotional and preventive health.
We have created a new department of Public Health with its own chief officer, and a County Health Board which will carry out massive public health education campaigns in all 45 wards of Meru.
I want to commend our health workers led by our able Minister Misheck Mutuma (Matiangi), and C.O Dr. Kirimi and Dr. Inanga for their sacrifice and effort in combating Covid-19. The real heroes in this fight are all those who faithfully followed and continue to follow the Covid-19 prevention protocols, which has helped us to curb the spread, and has saved many lives.
I am glad to note that since vaccines were made available, our people have turned out in large numbers to get vaccinated. So far 575,000 persons have been vaccinated, and I urge those who have not been vaccinated to do so.
We have significantly improved our curative health infrastructure, including establishing isolation centres, an oxygen plant, and ICU facility to help us cope with Covid-19 cases.
Mr. Speaker Sir., we promised to modernize all our towns. According to Vision 2040, in 20 years majority of our people will be living and working in urban areas. For this reason, we have embarked on a massive urbanization programme to improve all our towns and urban centres.
We have already submitted our proposal into this House to elevate Maua and Timau Towns into municipalities so that they can benefit from Government and World Bank urban support programmes. Under “My Town, My Business” program, our town management boards have taken office and are now in charge of garbage collection, beautification and dispute resolutions in their respective towns.
We have extended the cabro projects to all our major towns such as Kangeta, Kiutine, Kimongoro, Kianjai, Kibirichia, Kiirua, Nkubu, Kithirune, Gatimbi, Kinoro, Kanyakine, Kionyo, Mitunguu, Antu-betwe, Laare, Mutuati, Mikinduri, Kiguchwa, Athi, Kunati, among others. This project will continue until all the major trading sections of our towns and markets are clean, dust free and mud free.
We have installed 30 metres high level masts in all our major towns and markets including Maua, Laare, Kangeta, Mlango, Mutuati, Gakoromone, Main stage and Tuskys in Meru Municipality, Nkoune, Timau, Kianjai, Mikinduri, Nchiru, Nkubu, Mitunguu, among others, to improve security and extend the hours of doing business in our markets. Many 15 meters low masts were implemented in other small towns across the county.
Trade & Cooperatives
Mr Speaker Sir, we promised to promote entrepreneurship and attract private investment to the County. Since 2017, we have achieved key milestones in creating a conducive environment for conducting business in Meru County.
We have organised our markets and have so far established 255 Market Development Associations (MDAs) across the County. The MDAs have helped us to bring order and promote cleanliness in our markets.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19 which has affected the livelihoods of many SMEs, my Government has launched a POST-COVID-RECOVERY STRATEGY to provide the necessary financial support for mama mbogas, hawkers, boda-boda and small-scale traders through our market development associations (MDAs). Kshs. 22 million has already been allocated for lending.
We have constructed and allocated 154 modern kiosks in Makutano, Gakoromone, Gitimbine, Kinoru, and Tuskys within Meru Municipality. We have also allocated many market plots and stalls in towns and markets across the county in a fair and transparent manner.
My Government has also constructed many bodaboda sheds, market perimeter walls, eco-toilets and rehabilitated many markets across the County. Funds have been set aside to complete some markets which were left incomplete by the previous regime.
We have allocated land in Buuri Sub-County, to establish a Special Economic Zone in order to attract industries to Meru County. We are in talks with the Export Processing Zone Authority to develop these zones.
Through the Meru Investment and Development Corporation, we have partnered with a South African company, Windlab, to develop a 80MW hybrid renewable energy which comprises wind, solar PV and battery storage at a cost of Kenya Shillings 12 billion. The Toyota Green Power Project is also in the pipeline and is expected to generate 80MW using wind, solar PV and battery storage. This project is estimated to cost Kenya Shillings 15 billion.
KENGEN has also expressed interest to develop 400MW wind power project at a cost of over Kshs.10 billion. The implementation of this project is expected to commence once land issues in the proposed area are sorted.
Mr. Speaker Sir, we have so far registered 195 new cooperative societies covering sectors which were previously not organized such as Miraa, macadamia, avocado, potato, and banana farmers groups to enhance their production and marketing systems.
Mr Speaker Sir, we promised to empower the youth of Meru. My Government is keen on youth empowerment because the future of this county rests on our youth. Meru is the first county in Kenya to establish a youth service.
We have established and funded MYS to fight poverty, unemployment and hopelessness among our youth. The MYS program has so far trained 1600 youths. The most recent cohort of 430 MYS trainees passed out in January this year, and we have facilitated them to attend our polytechnics for skills training.
Last year we recruited 150 street children into Meru Youth Service and we are sponsoring them to attend our polytechnics. We are closely monitoring our former recruits. I am proud to report that majority are self-employed, while others have secured jobs in hotel, construction and agriculture sectors.
Recently, we rolled out the MYS Ng’arisha Mtaa Program which engaged 700 youths to clean 26 markets. We are in the process of creating MYS’s Youth in Agriculture Program to train our youth on modern agriculture and create a source of livelihoods for them.
MYS has also identified and trained 1000 youths through the Meru Stars program to promote creative arts, among our rural youth.
We have trained 1,800 boda boda riders on road safety and entrepreneurship and we shall continue with this program this year. We have also established a Kshs. 17 million Jitegemee Youth Fund which we are disbursing to boda boda Sacco members as seed capital for their businesses.
We have established a Post-Covid-19 Recovery Fund, which will assist youth access affordable credit to advance their businesses at an interest rate of only two percent (2%). We are in the process of establishing a studio, and a creative youth centre at Kinoru stadium.
We are working with Africa China Art Gallery of China to give youth skills in making fine art and handicrafts, and to facilitate them to sell their artefacts in China.
My Government has supported various sports activities for the youth including Mt Kenya Run, Chapa Dimba tournament finals and Kabeberi Sevens.
We have also supported local clubs with balls, uniforms and other sports equipment. Currently we are holding the Governor’s Cup tournament drawing teams from all the 45 wards to help identify and nurture youth talent across the county.
Mr Speaker Sir, we promised to empower our women. We created the Twaweza Women Empowerment Program in 2018 to empower the Meru woman economically, socially and politically.
This program has been very successful. So far, we have trained over 5,000 women on financial literacy and entrepreneurship, gender and Urban Planning, SGBV, & FGM. We were the first County in the country to develop and Launch of Meru County Sex and Gender Based Violence Policy 2018, which was approved by this House.
We have partnered with the Njuri Ncheke to promote women empowerment and fight gender-based violence and FGM in Meru County.
Economic empowerment of our women is one of the key objectives of the Twaweza Program. Towards this end, we have disbursed Kshs. 33 million to 533 women groups across the County. We shall continue growing this fund so as to reach more women groups.
Persons Living with Disability & the Elderly
Mr Speaker Sir, as Mahatma Gandhi rightly observed, “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” We have created a PWD board led by PWDs to exclusively focus on the welfare and empowerment of PWDs in this County.
We have established a PWD Sacco and disbursed Kshs. 15 million to that Sacco for supporting persons living with disabilities. 1,850 PWDs have already been trained on financial literacy. We have also procured and disbursed 150-wheel chairs and 150 white canes to PWDs across the County.
Through the Office of the PWD board chairman, 4,300 households have benefitted from relief food and other supplies, and 800 vulnerable girls have been supported with dignity kits to enable them live normal lives.
My Government has also commenced a program to alleviate the plight of the elderly in our society, majority of whom are our freedom fighters. 355 elderly persons have been covered in phase one of our program of issuance of comprehensive NHIF cover to elderly persons in Meru County. We are continuing with the exercising of identifying more beneficiaries and we hope to reach all the deserving persons in our society.
Mr. Speaker Sir., my Government is working hard to preserve and promote Kimeru language, history and culture. I wish to thank this House for passing the Kimeru Institute Bill, which seeks to create a legal framework for promotion of Kimeru Culture, Kimeru language, traditional songs and cultural dances. Mitunguu and Mwariama cultural centres have been completed and are currently in use.
The construction of the Njuri Ncheke Cultural Centre at Nchiru is ongoing and we expect it to be completed by the end of this financial year. My Department of Education has developed a curriculum for teaching Kimeru language and songs in all our ECDE classes. We have commissioned a consultant to write a book on Kimeru History and Culture which we shall soon distribute to our schools.
Last year, we held the first Meru County Honours and Awards event in which 37 distinguished men and women who have made Meru great were recognized and honoured. In recognizing the contributions of our freedom fighters, we have already named 2 roads in Meru Municipality after General Baimungi and Field Marshall Musa Mwariama.
My Government will through the Kimeru Institute host annual Meru cultural festivals. We are planning to hold the Meru Cultural Festival, which was postponed due to COVID-19, in May this year.
Mr Speaker Sir, for the first time, we now have the Meru County Climate Change Act which lays down the legal framework for mitigating climate change in Meru County. We have won a Kshs. 10 million award from the World Bank for our efforts in combating climate change.
Although our forest cover is 18 percent, which is above the recommended average of 10 percent, we have gazetted 6 County Forests and have partnered with the Ministry of Energy and the Kenya Forest Service under the KEEPS project to plant trees on the identified forest hills at a total cost of Kshs. 70 million.
Under this project, we have planted over 180,000 tree seedlings on 113ha in Mweru hill in Mwanganthia, and Nchuura hill. We have partnered with an NGO, Eden Reforestation Projects to plant over 3.4 million trees across Meru County in the next 5 years.
We have enhanced garbage collection in our towns by procurement of a new skip loader and garbage collection bins. We shall continue to mobilize local market youths for garbage collection in our markets every 90 days under the MYS town cleaning program.
Mr Speaker Sir, lack of land ownership documents has inhibited development in most parts of Tigania, Igembe and Buuri. My Government is working very closely with the National Government facilitate survey, dispute resolution and issuance of title deeds to the residents of Ankamia, Ruiri Rwarera, Kiirua Nkando, Mweru 3, Rikiau, Amwathi, Amung’enti, New Kiare and Mbwaa adjudication sections.
So far, 93,000 title deeds have been processed, and the owners will receive them soon. We shall continue supporting this exercise to unlock the economic potential of all the non-demarcated regions of this county.
My Government supported renovation and equipping of the Urru land registry to process titles for Tigania region. We have also facilitated transfer of survey maps from Embu to Urru in an effort to bring services closer to land owners in Tigania.
2022 and Beyond
Mr Speaker Sir, we have tried our best. As expected, political activities and political temperatures will continue to rise as we approach 2022. There has been too much focus on national politics and presidential candidates, and too little focus on candidates at the County level, and their dreams for the County.
We shall all have opponents like Ciomaragara who will be moving from village to village cheating the people that we have done nothing. There will be many prophets of doom and agents of confusion spreading lies and propaganda so that they can be elected.
Let us not waste this financial year on empty politicking and negative energy. Let us rise above the noise. Let us continue working hard to make Meru Great. Our people are not foolish. They are not blind and deaf. I believe those who have eyes will see and reward us accordingly.
I wish each and every Honourable Member success in the next General Elections.
Mr Speaker Sir, I now beg to move.
H.E Kiraitu Murungi, EGH, OKN
Governor, Meru County
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