Waheshimiwa and good friends, Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga and Governor Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o, this is your friend Adongo Ogony and I am a very angry man today.
Like millions of Kenyans and specifically the residents of Kisumu City, I was stunned and watched in shock and horror the wanton, callous and irresponsible destruction of the iconic Lwang’ni Beach Market in Kisumu City on Tuesday 23, 2019.
Just destroying the lives and aspirations of so many people like that. With no regard and no empathy at all for these great Kenyans who by investing in Lwang’ni Beach food magic centre at the shore of Lake Victoria entering Kisumu City very gracefully, created one of the greatest pieces of Kenyan culinary species and great food.
We have so many.
But Lwang’ni is something else. It has to be preserved. That is how cities develop all over the world. Ordinary folk create stuff, build enterprises and build cities.
How about Lwang’ni in Kisumu.
I hold the two of you responsible for this crime against the people of Kisumu. Why?
For one Prof. Ayang’ Nyong’o is the governor of Kisumu. Something of this magnitude cannot happen without his knowledge and express approval.
This is the joint as it was working:
I can tell you if this was in Sonko territory as crazy as Sonko is he would have been there physically to protect the lives of so many of his constituents. So obviously the governor approved this.
As for Jakom, we all know this is his baby. The entire Kisumu harbor revitalization is Jakom’s initiative working with President Uhuru Kenyatta after the now famous handshake to encourage development across the country.
To be clear all of us appreciate the effort to revive Kisumu Port. I personally have a long history of relationship with Kisumu Port. My now retired uncle, Engineer John Opiyo Abwao was one of the key operators of vessels and ships travelling between Kisumu and Mwanza which dates back to the East African Community.
There is nothing John loved more than taking us to his work place in the ships at the port where he worked as an Engineer.
If I were to tell him today that the port is being rebuilt, he would jump with joy even though now he is held down with born cancer and is resting at his home. He knows the value of that port and we all do too and we want our port back.
So we all want the port but here is my problem with Jakom’s plan on this. He should have stepped in and provided an avenue for the Kisumu county government, Kisumu M.Ps and MCAs, the owners and operators of Lwang’ni market to open negotiations with Kenya Railway Corporation.
Raila Odinga is probably the only person who has the political capital and prestige to make something like that happen. He needed to do it and still can do it.
The negotiations would have been over the use of the land in question and the gradual phasing out and relocation of Lwang’ni food eateries within the same area of this Beach market while providing Kenya Railway with the opportunity to start laying out their plan to rebuild the port.
Lwang’ni Beach food market is an economic hub and tourist attraction masterpiece in Kisumu City. There is nothing like it anywhere that I know anywhere around there. Thousands of peoples’ lives depend on the economic success of that place.
What is even more amazing about Lwang’ni is that this is the product of the sheer ingenuity and creativity of the ordinary poor Kenyan figuring out how to survive.
They just started it slowly step by step. Nobody helped them. This wasn’t a government project. Folks started it and built their food stands, they figured how to bring in clean water, they brought in electricity and built the entire infrastructure all by themselves.
Before you knew it we had this magnificent eatery centre and people have been flocking there for food ever since and it keeps expanding and getting better.
Even the name Lwang’ni tells the fresh genius and originality of those who built this iconic place for us. How fitting is that name. It is named after a small, ignored and irritating little thing.
That tells the whole story in ways we have no time to discuss now.
But here is the point.
Small efforts and things can manufacture into things that define peoples
In whatever conditions
It would have been great if President Uhuru would be welcomed for lunch at Lwang’ni with Raila and co. They had president units there. One tie I was there and Ruth Odinga as Deputy Governor at the time was there with her crew.
So it would have been very cool to take the president to Lwang’ni and then we start to talk about how to fix everything.
I believe this can still be done. Welcome the president to “The Fly” in Kisumu City right at the shores of Lake Victoria.
As of now and in last so many years, I would never imagine myself going to Kisumu without going to Lwang’ni market.
I cannot afford the Imperial Hotel and they have nothing close to the food you get at Lwang’ni.
What else is in Kisumu for those of us who do not have the deep pockets to wonder about in big hotels.
Am I going to go to Kisumu to admire the great Kisumu bus stand? May be to roam around in Chiro Mbero for the smell of vegetables and fruits.
Or visit Kondele. There is some little park with gazelles, somewhere there, should I go for that. I don’t think so.
So my demolishing Lwang’ni market you not just only destroy the lives of thousands of people whose lives depend on the food business and the rest of suppliers and transporters in the food chain, you are actually destroying the very heart and soul of Kisumu City.
That is a pretty shameful thing to do.
And here is the nightmare. Uhuru will come to commission the new port next month. Raila Odinga will be there with other dignitaries. There will be song and dance and great speeches about the so-called development.
After that they will fence the once famous Lwang’ni which is now a wasteland. After they fence it and the dignitaries are gone, you will never hear about that port again.
It will be another Kimwarer dam project for all practical purposes. If there is any money some people will grab it but under the circumstances there is no money for it.
This Kisumu Port project is not in the current budget. It will not be in the next budget. Uhuru already said the country is broke.
After that we enter 2022 and a new monster will enter State House. We don’t who that will be but whoever it is will tell Nyon’go and Raila (if they are still around politically) to go to hell with their port.
So new Kisumu Port will be our little white elephant lying empty on the graveyard of the hardworking people who now have lost all their source of income.
That is development, isn’t it?
Who needs anything like this?
And how can you call this development.
People are getting fed up with this bogus run arounds and they should be.
If this was done smartly we would do our homework first and like I said strike a negotiated deal that preserves this iconic eatery and centre of tourist attraction, mainly local tourists where it is not second to anything else in Kisumu.
Then get some funding most likely from partnerships with other international institutions and build not just the port and the container depo that is planned but also a whole new network of water transport system and network between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and that could serve a whole ton of purposes.
Let’s start with a negotiated plan. The politicians should have worked with Lwang’ni operators and owners and help them to form Lwang’ni Cooperative Society. That would be Lwang’ni SACCO to raise money.
Then restructure Lwang’ni eateries along the beach with full lake view. In fact with some help this could be built in the form of permanent, clean and usable structures with all the attractions that could make the new Lwang’ni Beach Food Market more appealing and attractive.
And of course they would still have those amazing boat rides into the lake and back. There is nothing more amazing than that. Ask my son. He has been there since he was 12 years old. It is the first place he wants to go to when he comes home. Of course he really loves Lamu too and he used to ride donkeys there.
If we can set up a negotiated deal, the Railway Corporation would have to sacrifice a little piece of their land but for a very good course.
In any event even after we build the new port (if it ever happens), wouldn’t people working there and travelling through want to eat some great food. I think so.
And right there in their face would be the new renovated Lwang’ni Food market. What could possibly be wrong with this?
If went that route it would have been spectacular if on this expected new Kisumu Port launch in August would see Governor Nyong’o, Raila Odinga and other Kisumu leaders invite President Uhuru and other dignitaries to Lwang’ni market for a real buffet meal in the full glare of our great lake.
That would have meant keep the things the way they are while working on the next step to change that port land forever. It would also have been the biggest promotion of small businesses like Lwang’ni market. How just grand would that be. We will never know. But we can still recover from this whole debacle. I would say we must.
This is how great cities are built. People create stuff and build.
This is Kensington Market in my hometown Toronto. It has a history, believe me but here it is. Beautiful Kensington.
I think one option is to allow Lwang’ni operators to run their business from their current location which is perfect. You can walk there from downtown Oginga Odinga street. But design to take much less land and be in permanent structures.
In fact the county government working with individual owners can build the structures right at the lake front where they are. Have a leasing deal with Kenya Railway Corporation with specific conditions. That is how cities are built.
I can give examples right here in Toronto where we have Harbourfront, the largest entertainment, food and music network built along Lake Ontario which is pretty much close to where so many of us live.
The land is owned by the provincial government. The establishments built there are private investments.
Then they have numerous buildings for public utility and endless public parks and utilities including boat rides across Lake Ontario to the Islands. There are three islands off the shore from Toronto.
The lakeshore which runs for hundreds of miles is public land.
Back to the main issue, let’s not forget something. At its height Kisumu port was truly the hub of East Africa and it was a magnificent place to behold. It had all sorts of vessels and ships just at the tip of the lake. If we could even approach that it would be a wonderful miracle. But we are a long way and we are screwing everything up already.
Let me tell you why I am a 100% sure that nothing is going to happen here like building a new port.
Lake Victoria is choking to death with hyacinth particularly around the Kisumu beaches. People can’t even take their boats into the lake to make a living like they have done for hundreds of years.
Time after time after time the big political figures in Nyanza have announced big plans to wipe out the hyacinth. The announcements are often accompanied with pomp and loud speeches. Many times we have seen big machines being surrounded by politicians as the hyacinth removal project is launched.
Shortly after that the big machines are gone and hyacinth is flapping around happily in the lake and attempting the cover the whole damn lake. From the record to date the Hyacinth is winning this war hands down. They are laughing in our face and lake as we make speeches about them. I would be happy if I was them.
If I was starting a football team in Kenya today to challenge Gor Mahia. AFC, Tusker and those pesky Bandari boys I would call my team, The Hyacinth Football Club (HFC) from Lakeland. Oh boy. Nobody would dare face our team and we would be based in Kisumu, no less. Where else.
Now if we can’t even figure out how to remove hyacinth from our lake and waterfront how the hell do we think we are going to build a new port.
It is just one foolish announcement after the other. It is more of the photo op than a real intent to invest in the communities and in our country.
At least when Uhuru when to launch the Industrial Park in Ruiru, Kiambu a few days ago it was real and you could see stuff is moving and the investment is there.
The Kisumu new port launch will just be a photo op with politicians literally dancing on the raw graves of those poor owners and operators of Lwang’ni Eateries, most of whom will be packing their little property heading back to their villages to start farming in their little piece of rock patch they call their land. They must be very thankful to their politicians.
If we want to really revitalize Kisumu City and Lake Victoria economic productivity whose potential is immense let’s start by clearing the hyacinth nightmare.
Money has been allocated ten or more times and nothing at all has been done. Clean the lake and the port first.
In fact a clear plan to clean the lake could create a lot of jobs for the young people in the area. Let’s get this one thing done at least then talk about the new port and people will take you seriously.
And the way the hyacinth grows is crazy. Two years ago I was home for the elections. I took the kids down to Luanda Kotieno beach where we boarded a ferry to cross the lake to Mbita and go to Rusinga Island which my son wanted to see. It was a magnificent journey. You can go by ferry or by speed boat.
While travelling I noticed all these plants emerging above the water. I ask my nephew what that was all about. He tells me it is the dreaded hyacinth.
Then he tells me now you see a few plants. In a few months they will be ten times that much and in a year of two it will be a huge hyacinth bush right on the pathway of the ferry and the boats.
Incidentally this is the only official ferry and boat link between Central and South Nyanza. I dare you my friends, visit it within a few years and it will be grounded by hyacinth.
And now we want to build a port for Vessels and ships. Those things don’t fly in the air. They actually have to float on a hyacinth free lake.
My point right now for Hon. Raila and Governor Nyong’o is that you need to go back to the table and work this out diligently. And work with all parties involved for a solution that makes sense.
By the way when the president is in Kisumu for this new port launch ask him to help you sort out how to get rid of the hyacinth as soon as possible, once and for all.
Hyacinth, Lake Victoria transport network and the port cannot co-exist in Lake Victoria.
That is rather obvious.
But this is here is part of the constant lies. For how long must Kenyans put up with this.
Next I will follow this up with a look at the tragic events happening after another foolish move called the Dominion Farm Project has failed in Nyanza after a foreign company was handed 2,300 hectares of the most fertile land was handed to them including very delicate and valuable water catchment areas in Yala Swamp.