Addressing participants during the first leg of the launch in Turkana county, the chief guest who is also Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Eugene Wamalwa regretted that the refugee presence had had a negative impact in the lives of the people in these areas but quickly added that the refugee problem would be solved through development similar to what the project promises to bring to the country.
He observed that the biggest problem facing refugee hosting communities in the country is water and said that once the vital commodity is made accessible, half the problem will have been solved.
“We need to construct big sustainable dams, similar to what Uganda had done,” he said and gave a breakdown of the cost of undertaking the activity. “Construction of a dam, costs Sh200million. With the Sh800 million (additional) Danish International Development Agency funding alone, three mega dams can be constructed in each of the three KDRDIP counties of Garissa, Wajir and Turkana for a more impactful result.”
Just as the name suggests, he termed the project a development response to bring development to the north and north eastern parts of the country and said cross border trade should flourish and not bullets and roads should be built, for example between Kenya and Uganda through Moroto, a border town between Kenya and Uganda.
“There is need for a paradigm shift, so that that this region can move from relief supplies to resilience” he said. “Turkana can provide the whole country with water for over 70 years; all that is needed is to tap the underground water.”
While in Garissa, he responded to the concerns raised by local leaders, and encouraged them to continue to voice their complaints since they had every right to complain and promised that all the issues will be addressed.
“This project has full blessings of the National government and it (the government) will follow-through to ensure that all the concerns raised are addressed and the implementation is a success,” he assured the participants.
He thanked World Bank for financing the project and termed it the best programme that the region has seen in recent times.
The Project Coordinator, Dr Anne Kinyua paid glowing tribute to the Executive Office of the President for providing the critical support during the planning phase of the project and thanked the World Bank for providing financing for the project.
Dr. Anne Kinyua gave a synopsis of what the project entailed and assured the stakeholders that National Project Implementation Unit had the necessary competencies required to successfully implement the project for the benefit of the target refugee host communities.
World Bank Representative John Kinuthia Muratha said that devolution had brought a lot of promise to hitherto Kenya’s marginalized areas like Turkana county. He said the bank was supporting the implementation of several projects across North and North Eastern region not because of the unique challenges but because of the potential that the region holds particularly with the advent of devolution in Kenya.
“This is an exciting day for the county,” he said. “After the development of key project documents (by NPIU), results are now trickling in but the hard questions will be asked during the roll-out.”
He urged the implementing partners to forge strong partnerships for the common good of the target beneficiaries and challenged them to bring women and youth on board. “The bank would like to see more women and youth represented in the project implementation process. These are the people that need assistance most.”
In Garissa, he said the bank will closely monitor the implementation of the project for the benefit of refugee host communities adding that the bank would want to see results within the agreed timeframe and pointed out that procurement would be critical during the implementation process.
World Bank NEDI Program Lead Helene Carlsson joined the launch in Wajir with a battery of experts from different fields from World Bank Nairobi office. She said the World Bank team was attending the launch in Wajir to discuss with Wajir County Government how the implementation of the NEDI projects can be accelerated and to engage with the community directly.
She voiced her appreciation for the sacrifice that the people of Wajir have made in hosting refugees and noted that it had come with unique challenges. She however pointed out that the project has an innovative design that will help mitigate some of the challenges that have been faced by refugee host communities.
Acknowledging that the project had taken time to get to the current implementation phase, Ms Carlsson assured participants that it had picked up well and was on course for implementation. She said the bank will work closely with the project counties and implementing agencies to ensure that the project adheres to the set objectives and implementation timelines.
She emphasized the community-driven development approach of the project and said it is a critical element of project implementation adding that it would ensure adequate and meaningful community engagement, specially focusing on women and youth.
The Deputy Head of Public Service Wanyama Musiambo who presided over the closing of all the three launches assured participants that the project would not turn into a white elephant but will assist host communities who have borne the brunt of refugees over the last 26 years.
He challenged the local leaders to provide oversight to ensure that the funds allocated are utilized for the intended purpose.
He stressed on need for transparency during project implementation. “Since the project is World Bank-funded, every intention and activity must have the approval of World Bank,” he said.
He said government was deliberate on its pursuit of integrity and said every single cent will be accounted for and spent for the purpose for which it is advanced.
He re-echoed the sentiments of the chief guest, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa that the spirit of the project is to empower local communities and said that it is the community that will determine what they want. This, he said, will help guard against doing what will not benefit the community.
Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi Mohamud said his government will partner with the project team to formulate plans that will identify the needs of the communities to be supported.
He emphasized his government’s commitment to providing the necessary support to KDRDIP and the wider NEDI programme to ensure the realization of social economic transformation in Wajir County.
Others who spoke during the launches in the three counties were County Commissioners, Members of Parliament, Members of County Assemblies in the respective project counties, Deputy County Commissioners, a representative from UNHCR and a representative from IGAD.