The construction of a multi-million-shilling cement factory in Sebit, West Pokot County, has not kicked off a decade after it was commissioned.
The stalling of the project, which was commissioned in July 2010 by then Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has dashed hopes of the residents who expected to benefit economically and socially from job opportunities.
The residents attribute the project’s delayed implementation to political rivalry among local leaders and government departments and want the contentious issues resolved.
“We fail to understand why this project is taking so long to kick off despite the investor making several visits to the site,” said Emmanuel Limarusi.
Mr Limarusi hails from Sebit, where immense limestone deposits — raw material for cement manufacturing — are found.
Limestone deposits are found on both sides of the Kapenguria-Lodwar highway from Chepareria to beyond Ortum.
The residents have resorted to mining the limestone themselves, which they sell in form of ballast-sized stones along the highway at Sebit, Kapng’arng’ar and Ortum centres.
A wheelbarrow of these stones fetches as little as Sh120 with locals lamenting over lack of a market for their products.
“We are selling along the road and those using this highway are the ones who come for these products. They go as far as Mombasa, Nakuru, Baringo and Lodwar. In a day, I can produce four wheelbarrows and I accumulate the stones until I get a substantial quantity like 30 tonnes, which gives me Sh6,000. It helps me provide for my family and educate my children,” said Margaret Jairo, a trader in limestone at Kapng’arng’ar.
The residents are opposed to a move by some private developers who want to buy the land at Sh400,000 per acre.
“There is an investor who has been mapping this area intending to buy it from us, We have been waiting for a cement factory for the last 10 years. We cannot accept Sh400,000 per acre because we need a long-term investment,” said James Obama, another resident.
The residents said many people came to the area immediately after the commissioning and put up business premises and rental houses targeting workers expected to be employed in the factory.
“They expected their businesses to improve and the economy of the county to grow. People have lost hope”, said Selina Chepou Aswatum, a businessman at Sebit trading centre.
The residents accuse relevant government departments and their leaders for keeping quiet on the matter, yet they had promised that the work was to commence immediately when the former prime minister commissioned the project.
“Our county government, Members of Parliament and councillors have never shown any signs of commitment on seeing that the work starts, and nobody has come to us to explain why the construction has not started,” added Ms Aswatum.
They called on the national government to come to their rescue.
The investment, which was expected to change the socio-economic lives of the Pokot community, has been commissioned thrice: By Mr Odinga, former West Pokot governor Simon Kachapin and his successor Prof John Lonyangapuo.
Some of the buyers who spoke to the Nation said they buy the stones to use in building and landscaping.
Initially, Cemtech Limited won tender to implement the Sh1.2 billion cement factory but construction work is yet to start.
The Cemtech Company has fenced the area ahead of the construction process.
The company acquired 650 acres on a 99-year lease period and residents have been waiting in vain for the establishment of the plant to create job opportunities.
The company was to put up an ultra-modern, environmentally friendly cement factory, along with staff houses, schools, medical centre, staff training centre and other amenities.
It was also to put up a 64 MW power plant to be sold to the national grid.
The cement factory was expected to employ more than 4,500 people once completed.
The construction of a multi-billion project has failed to start, more than 10 years since its commission. There is no single structure that has been built.
But Mining PS Peter Kaberia said the project remains a private investment and encouraged the private investors to take up the initiative to invest in it so that the local community’s socio-economic status can be improved.
“Sebit cement factory remains a private investment and we call upon investors to venture in this to improve the lives of the locals,” said Mr Kaberia.