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Thika residents angrily protest cancellation of Citizens Forum without notice

A section of Thika residents who had presented themselves at the Thika Town Hall to participate in the much-publicised Citizen Fora in regards to the World Bank funded Kenya Urban Support Programmes (KUSP) for Thika Municipality got a rude shock when they were informed that the meeting had been postponed indefinitely without any prior notice.

About two weeks ago, Kiambu County Government placed a notice in the media appealing to residents of the six municipalities to attend public participation sessions in their various local municipality halls on Monday 22nd March 2021 to deliberate on priority development programmes that would benefit from the KES. 1.8 billion World Bank kitty for the year 2021-2022.

To their utter dismay, a locked Town Hall door met them with some county staff deployed to register them as they came. When they demanded to know why they were being registered and asked to leave, the officials responded that the meeting had been cancelled and what they were doing was to register those who had come and those who had any written memorandum to present to the county government for consideration.

This agitated the residents who included the Thika District Business Association (TDBA) Chairman Alfred Wanyoike. They demanded for an audience with the Thika Municipal Manager Hoswel Ng’ang’a Kinuthia since he was the one mandated to convene the meeting.

They argued that their data was being recorded with an intention by the organisors to pass resolutions for an inexistent public participation forum.

Pleas to have them leave the compound bore no fruits, insisting that they would only leave after the Municipal Manager came and addressed them.

Eventually, after about 2 hours of a heated debate, the manager came out from his office.

In response, Kinuthia said that the meetings had been cancelled by Governor James Nyoro due to the COVID-19 restrictions. However, he was at pains to explain why they had to cancel it in the last minute when participants had already arrived ready to present their views.

“We are under instructions not to hold any meetings due to the COVID-19 restrictions. This forum has been postponed indefinitely until when we shall be instructed otherwise,” explained the Municipal Manager.

However, MCAs Chege Waithumbi (Kamenu Ward), Julius Taki (Witeithie) and Simon Kuria Wakarema accused the current administration of giving Kiambu East a raw deal in allocation of resources and implementation of development programmes.

They said that even as the county was preparing to budget for the 2021-2022 KUSP’s KES. 1.8 billion, Kiambu East was yet to realise the benefits of the over KES. 350 million that was allocated in the previous financial year. They demanded to know why majority of those projects were never tendered for with the ones that had been started by the previous administration dying a natural death.

This, they said, was despite the fact that similar projects were going on without a hitch in the other side of Kiambu West. They accused the current administration of diverting the money allocated for projects around Kiambu East to Kiambu West, because that is where all the county bosses hailed from.

They also demanded to know where the money received by Kiambu County Government in terms of revenue collections and allocations from treasury went because no tangible development could be witnessed around Kiambu East, other than World bank funded projects.

They pointed out that Kiambu East’s biggest hurdle was having their Municipal Boards dominated by officials drawn from Kiambu West who knew nothing about their predicaments. Theirs, they said, were boardroom development of policies that had no actual impact on the demands of the residents.

The meeting ended without any word as to when or if the public will be called for participation other than a vague promise of an indefinite meeting and a plea for residents to forward their memoranda to the Municipal Manager.

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