By Leah W. Njuguna
ISSUES IN GICHUGU
Being the seasoned politician that she is, and enjoying the support of State House, Karua is promising a tough fight in Gichugu. Critics contend that besides her frequent visits to the area, Karua has not performed well in uplifting the lives of her constituents. Some claim that she is only involved in national matters and has failed to meet the dire needs of the constituents. Many also consider her as aloof and arrogant saying she must change. Her detractors are citing the alleged rigging of Narc – Kenya party election in Gichugu saying that the provincial administration aided the Minister in the exercise. The aspirants are accusing Karua of neglecting the constituency to an extent that it has performed increasingly poorly in national examinations, especially for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). Former academic giants like Kianyaga High School, Mutiga Secondary School and Ngiriambu Girls have lost their former stature. In addition, many children have been forced to drop out of school and are either picking coffee or engaging in other cheap labour to supplement their parents’ meagre earnings. There has also been a major outcry over the state of dilapidated roads that slow transportation of goods to Kutus, Kianyaga, Kiamutugu and other market in interior places.
Critics argue that Karua is only available on Mondays at the constituency office and can hardly give an ear to the hundreds who throng the office seeking her attention. However, she is said to be fond of making appearances in religious functions and women groups where she is said to be donating generous amounts of money in the run up to the elections. In addition, since she once served as the Minister for Water Development, Gichugu constituents expected to have water at their doorsteps particularly for irrigation purposes. This did not happen and this made the Gichugu people bitter with their Member of Parliament. Instead, water services were taken over by a private company that is charging for connections and monthly water bills. This has not gone down well with Gichugu residents since most of them are poor hence cannot afford the monthly rates.
Constituents are also complaining that the minister has not done much to improve farming as an economic activity. Of particular concern to them is a project she initiated with the help of an international company where she is said to have some interests. The company was supposed to market French beans grown in the area to international markets. Farmers were in for a shock after the company went under without paying out the proceeds from the delivered crop. Upon raising the issue with the minister, Karua ordered that the farmers be paid using the CDF funds. The controversial 28,000 hectare South Ngariama ranch in Mwea is another bone of contention. The communal land and which was held under trust of the Kirinyaga county council has witnessed killings in bloody confrontations. Members of the ranch drawn from Kirinyaga and Mbeere districts are up in arms against what they call betrayal by the council instigated by local politicians. In the alleged plot, the scheme is up for grab by outsiders who have been allocated land. Sources from within the nine clans who are the real owners of the land allege that legislators from the district are using the land as a campaign tool by dishing it out to their allies and political supporters. Though the Minister hails from Mwea, she is alleged to have conspired with some legislators from the other districts to deny a rightful share to members.
These are some of the areas Karua’s opponents would be capitalizing on during the ongoing campaigns.