This last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Machakos County in Kenya and hopefully see for myself what the hullabaloo is all about. It happened by chance…at my workplace I do trainings to familiarize colleagues on new products in the market. I had not done training for the colleagues in Machakos, Kitui and Wote areas so this last weekend the training was scheduled on Saturday morning. A bit of background is in order.
Last weekend – June 27th to 29th there was a rugby event in Machakos dubbed ‘Masaku Sevens”. What took place during these events make Las Vegas look like a convent – apparently (as I hear, I was not there) couples were having sex on the side of the road with little regard for passers-by and alcohol and other stimulants were being shared in plenty. Revelers also experienced the worst traffic jam ever – with people spending 5 to 12 hours on the road trying to complete a one-hour journey. The whole event left much to be desired and the young as well as the old wondered whether any morality was left in society. However, my trip has little to do with these events – I am more attracted by other things.
The governor of Machakos County is one Alfred Mutua. During his one year-plus in office he has made tangible changes to the County. He started with the fancy Police Cars, apparently these cars are second-hand cars but their colors are distinct and command respect. In addition he brought streetlights, roads, security and a Stadium, which can accommodate up to (5000 people) – all this within a year in office. So with all this in mind I headed to Machakos County on the first weekend of July.
Machakos is about 1.25 hours away from Nairobi. The roads are pretty good so unless there is traffic the travel is quite smooth. I left Nairobi at about 7 am and was in Machakos at 8:15 am.
The first thing I noticed was the mini-billboard announcing commercial entities found in the county. In addition the entrance to Machakos is adorned with flowers on both sides, like entering a private estate. The governor’s office stands out with the white-paint, stonewalls. The gold-colored sign identified the Governor’s office leaving no-doubt that you have arrived in town.
I also notice the Agricultural Showground on the right side of the road as we came in- unimpressive but still prominent in a town. There were signs, which announce “The People’s Park” which I never really saw but understood to be out of town. All this time we are driving on a well-maintained road, which is leading into other pars of town.
Machakos town is small but there is a lot going on. There are various hangout spots including one Mulley’s, which is a corruption on ‘Mulei’s’, which is supposed to be equivalent to the local McDonalds. The time famous ‘Tea Tot Hotel’ now has two hotels which gives a customer a choice to visit the hotel in the middle of town or a little bit out of town.
In the afternoon after my training I headed out to Muumando a town about 20 km away from Machakos. The town looks exactly like my hometown – Pap-Onditi, Nyakach. The soil, the plants, the uncanny resemblance is unsettling. The soil is lightly sandy – a bit hopeless for farming, a prominent fencing plant is Kay-Apple plant, which is thorny and grows in dry areas.
I was at Muumando to attend a friend’s marriage ceremony where the girl’s family comes to inspect the man’s home to ensure that the woman will be well taken care of. The ceremony was mostly in Kama, a language I neither speak, nor understand and seemed to be more about the father and mother of my friend. People raised a huge amount of money – to go towards the wedding I supposed, and we ate a lot of traditional food. I spend most of the event staring in space, and occasionally talking to a friend as I could barely follow the proceedings.
In the evening we left Muumando to head back to Nairobi. The evening drive allowed me to appreciate Machakos County even more. As we drove out of town the streetlights were very prominent. In addition, the road is well marked, including bumps, which gives the driver a good driving experience at night when it’s hard to predict what is on the road. I never made it to see “The People’s Park” however in the darkness it shone prominently, marking its territory. As we left Machakos, one thing was on our minds, how could a governor achieve so much in such a short time?
I live and work in Nairobi County where our local governor has made it clear that he is desperate for any money that can be collected. Parking fees have gone up, citizens are heavily fined for jaywalking including other minor offences. All citizens wait for is the next new tax- but results are wanting. This is the reason why the progress of Machakos County has sparked debates. It is because other governors with bigger budgets have not even achieved half of what Machakos Governor, Alfred Mutua has achieved.
As we approached Nairobi, I began to think about Machakos. Right now is may be in the news because of the orgies and debaucheries that took place there two weekends ago but in reality, the governor made a smart move, Machakos is safe enough that the youth feel free to party there, the businessmen feel confident enough to invest and tourist are curious enough to go and see what is happening there. The county wins all ways because they will always generate revenue just by making critical adjustment that makes the country attractive. If you do have time pass by Machakos County, this is what we need all counties in Kenya to look like.