MINISTER ADMITS DISMAL FAILURE AS CHINESE COMPANY SET TO FIX MARA ROAD
All but admitting to have misled the Kenyan public in the past, the Minister for Roads had to eat humble pie during a public interview on one of Nairobis TV stations, when he had to reveal that the notoriously bad road between Narok to the Masai Maras Sekenani gate would have to be repaired by a Chinese company, after local companies, contracted and largely paid for the contract, failed to deliver any improvement.
Tour and safari companies have regularly complained to their own ministry of tourism and tour drivers repeatedly staged protests blocking the vital road, on which according to one regular source from Nairobi the profits of a company can be lost through broken springs, broken shock absorbers and damage to the car bodies, and delays in reaching the Mara or returning tourists in time to the airport for departure flights for which we are held responsible. Cars get stuck overnight at times and considering the income tourism brings to Narok Council and the government at large it is a disgrace. They are promising this road upgrade for years and years, ministers come for site visits, make more promises, dish out more money to crony companies and nothing changes. Maybe we should sue the minister together with government for the damages we suffer and make him pay so that others who follow him learn a lesson and keep our roads passable.
There has been a wrangle on responsibility for this road between the Narok council and central government which will only be resolved after the next elections, when provisions of the new constitution come into full effect and which will leave the newly formed counties responsible only for feeder roads while the central government will assume full responsibility for all main roads classified as A, B and C.
By and large the government of President Kibaki has done a good job on roads and he will be in our history books for these accomplishments for sure. But the road to the Masai Mara remains a sore in our side and as an industry we have been let down in so many things. Less funding for KTB, attempting to make tourism services a VAT item which will raise the cost of holidays at a time when we struggle to keep numbers up, the constant quarrels over the Nairobi airport expansion which prevents new airlines from coming here and bringing more passengers, the poaching and how government deals with it and a lot more. Mombasa has about 20 percent less arrivals this year compared to last year and from receiving the most tourists has now yielded to Nairobi. Coast hotels suffer from poor occupancies except a few top performers which always keep their hotels in top shape and the scenes in Amboseli when Masai speared elephants or killed the lions in Kitengela went around the world giving us very negative publicity. Government needs to understand tourism needs a holistic approach and not just a bit here and there he added in with bitter disappointment.
Minister Franklin Bett during the interview said that a financing deal has been reached with China for the re-construction of the road but left out the crucial element of committing to have the road in its present state repaired, potholes filled and maintenance work continue until the new road will be formally commissioned in a few years time. Said another source in this respect in an overnight mail: He was shy to say anything on the money paid to useless contractors. We demand that the road is fixed now while we wait for a new one to be built. We can no longer tolerate the potholes and craters, that has to stop. Let government give that work to the Chinese too if necessary because our Kenyan companies have failed us completely.
The Masai Mara is every year the centre of the wildebeest migration when during late June till at times early November the great herds cross into the Masai Mara in search of pasture, before then returning to the low grass plains between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, where they give birth to the next generation before resuming then the annual pattern of migration. The Masai Mara at this time of the year is normally jam packed with tourists coming from around the world to see the amazing spectacle of the herds crossing the Mara River, running a gauntlet of huge crocodiles waiting for them in the river and the predators on both sides, taking their prey at will. Safaris at their best, Magical Kenya at her best, if only the roads were better. Watch this space.