By Leah W. Njuguna
Gichugu constituency in Central Province Kirinyaga district has over 80,000 registered voters and 58 Polling stations. Gichugu is a rich agricultural area with tea and coffee as the main cash crops and horticulture farming. Despite being an agriculturally well-endowed region with rich soils and good rainfall throughout the year, poverty levels are high. The high cost of farm inputs like fertilisers and seeds has greatly affected the economic standards of the region which is also grappling with deteriorating security.
The constituency has been represented by justice and constitution affairs minister Martha Karua for the last 15 years since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1992. The constituency has fully supported President Mwai Kibaki in the past three elections, and is likely to continue the trend in the forthcoming general elections. Karua, who is also the deputy leader of government business in the house, is probably the most vocal and courageous fighting general for President Kibaki’s administration. She is expected to be one of the key pillars in marketing the newly launched Kibaki’s re-election vehicle, PNU.
The no-nonsense minister is among the few women who can articulate courageously their political stance without fear of intimidation by her male counterparts. In her native Gichugu constituency, her opponents see her as an arrogant woman who never takes a chance to listen to them.
In contrast, majority of Gichugu residents have commended the MP for her development projects through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) ranging from health, water and education. Since the introduction of CDF in 2003, there are over 130 complete and ongoing projects. There are 3 complete health centers in Riakithiga, Gaciongo and Joshua Mbai; four complete water projects in Kianyaga, Nyaru, Mukia and Ngumara; and seven bridges in Kathata, Konyu, Muratiri, Kanjangiri, Njambo, Gatuki and Karoki.
There has also been construction of Day secondary schools in most primary schools with 10 schools complete. This is under a new policy where the government is encouraging construction of secondary schools in unutilized land owned by primary schools. The complete secondary schools under this arrangement include Rukenya, Gatunguru, Kianguenyi, Kiandai, Gacatha, Kiaumbui, Kathunguri, Karumandi, Kavote and Thumaita. She has also assisted several primary schools in electrification and building of new classes for example at Kiathi, Rwambiti, Gikumbo and Kathunguri. Under her patronage, CDF has also aided in the construction of a laboratory at Ngiriambu primary and a youth polytechnic at Kianyaga.
Karua has also funded planting of trees in all sub locations in the constituency at a total cost of Ksh 400,000. She has also set aside Ksh 2.2 million from the CDF kitty to assist poor former students to obtain their secondary school certificates. Other major CDF projects are revival of the old Kutus Market at a cost of over Ksh 2 million, funding of Gichugu Horticulture exporters association at a cost of Ksh 3 million and funding of Gichugu diary at a cost of Ksh 1 million. Karua is also responsible for the construction of Kianyaga sub district hospital through the African Development Bank and the tarmarcking of the Rukenya-Kimunye road.