H.E. James Ongwae' s speech during celebrations to mark Jamhuri day 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Once again, we gather here to commemorate the 54th anniversary of our country’s independence.

We celebrate the day in 1964 when Kenya became a republic, free from the clutches of the colonialist. On that day, Kenyans became free to chart their destiny through internal self-rule.

As a people, being independent means, we have the freedom to make informed choices in life without having to seek permission from other people - a gift that’s more precious than any material possession.

This, therefore, is an important day in the Kenyan calendar and independence shouldn’t be taken for granted. Our forefathers forged a united Kenya following years of struggle and immense sacrifice. They worked hard to build our country so we owe everything to them.

Driven by the desire to build one indivisible nation, our forebears vowed that never again would a brother turn against brother and that all Kenyans would be equal under the law.

This gave rise to the nationalist covenant upon which our nationhood is hinged inspiring us to continue fighting against poverty, disease, ignorance and other social ills in Kenya today.

Even as we celebrate our independence, we must acknowledge the fact that we have a responsibility as citizens to ensure the unity in diversity displayed by our fore bearers is continued. We must teach our children where we have come from and inculcate in them the virtue of sacrifice.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Under colonial rule, our people experienced untold suffering. Our young men were conscripted and forced to fight in foreign wars they knew little about. Many were enslaved in their own land while others had their land and property taken away.

We cannot forget the many young men and women who rose against this imperialist rule eventually liberating the country.

Today we pause and reflect on this journey of an independent Kenya that has been fraught with challenges along the way.

As we embarked on the journey of self-rule, we have at times differed in terms of ideology and governance. These differences have threatened to negate the gains of independence but we have risen above them.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As a Country, we have come a long way in 54 years. Thanks to the heroes and heroines of the second liberation struggle, we now have a devolved system of governance in the country.

This system has devolved power and resources from the centre, giving citizens at the grassroots freedom to participate in governance and set their development priorities.

In the first five years of devolution in Kisii County, we chalked a number of successes in efforts to actualize the aspirations of our people.

Guided by the first County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP), we worked to implement development projects across all sectors of our economy to better the lives of our people.

On August 8th, Kisii County residents elected me and my Deputy to a second term in office re-affirming their faith in our leadership.

We remain committed to fulfilling the pledges we made to our people. With this in mind, we have hastened the reorganization of government and planning processes in spite of the on-going judicial process.

I wish to thank the County Assembly for helping institutionalize the Executive arm of the County and now, members of the County Executive Committee are in place. The process of appointment of Chief Officers is on-going and we hope by January next year, we shall be fully institutionalized.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Planning is an integral part of the development process. I wish to report that the process of developing the 2017-2022 County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) is nearly complete.

I wish to thank residents who turned out in large numbers during public participation forums on the CIDP across the County. I assure you that your views and proposed development priorities will be incorporated in the final document that will be made public.

As I said before, our development programmes have been affected by delays by the National Treasury in releasing funds to counties. By the close of last month, Kisii County had yet to receive its share of development revenue for as many as five months.

However, last week, the President signed into law the County Allocation of Revenue Amendment bill so we hope this paves the way for disbursement of funds to facilitate implementation of development projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

During public hearings on the CIDP, our people indicated that road infrastructure remained a priority. During the first term, we opened a number of county and village roads but due to heavy rains and the hilly terrain in our region, most of these roads have deteriorated.

We have set aside KShs.315million for construction of additional county roads and a further KShs.316million for maintenance of existing roads as provided for in the Road Maintenance Policy developed in the first term.

To speed up road construction work in the current financial year, we are contracting the Mechanical Transport Fund (MTF) to open and gravel county and village roads in each of the 45 wards.

Working with Members of the County Assembly, we have identified these priority roads and we plan to construct between five (5) to eight (8)km of gravel roads in each ward. This will significantly ease transport challenges and boost market access for agricultural produce.

As I said before, construction and rehabilitation of urban roads within Kisii Town is underway and contractors are already on site.

As part of the African Development Bank (ADB) funded Ahero - Isebania road project that traverses our County, we successfully negotiated to ensure the County benefits.

A number of feeder roads among them Oyugis – Rioma; Suneka – Riana – Rodi; Nyamataro – Daraja Moja; St. Stephen – Christa Marianne and Nyachenge – Ikoba – Ogembo roads are set for upgrade to bitumen standard.

Additionally, new markets at Daraja and Suneka will be built as part of this project while the Kisii Town – Nyamataro stretch will be expanded into a dual carriageway to ease traffic congestion.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Our urban centres are modernizing and growing fast. We must transform the infrastructure and management of these centres to support this growth. In this regard, we shall invest in physical planning and upgrading of social amenities in urban areas.

In the first term, we embarked on a street lighting programme with focus on solar and high mast lights – a programme that was a success.

However, we have witnessed cases of vandalism of these essential amenities across the county. I urge national security agencies to help us end this vice. Our people should help us by reporting suspects because these utilities are meant to improve their lives.

Going forward, we shall complete installation of the remaining five (5) high mast lights out of those planned in 16 market centres.

To boost efficiency in solid waste management, we have finalized plans to purchase an additional five (5) garbage collection tractors and trailers to be deployed across the county. We are also engaging stakeholders and residents through public participation regarding acquisition of a waste disposal site for Kisii Town. I urge market committees in all sub counties to help in identifying waste disposal sites.

I wish to commend the 16 youth groups contracted to conduct clean-ups in our urban centres for the good job they have done over the years. We shall contract another three groups by January to ensure each major market across the county has a cleaning group.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Access to water for domestic and commercial use remains a priority area for the County Government. As part of our strategy to enhance water reticulation to reduce the distance covered to water points, we shall focus on revival and construction of water schemes as well as drilling of boreholes.

We have set aside funds to purchase drilling equipment (rigs) to sink boreholes across the county. Additionally, we have allocated KShs.28million for spring protection programmes in all wards.

For Kisii Town and its environs, I wish to report that implementation of Phase 1 of the KShs.1.5billion Water and Sanitation project is complete.

As part of the project, Gusii Water and Sanitation Company (GWASCO) has acquired and installed 5,000 new consumer water meters to improve revenue collection.

Additionally, the distribution line and pumping system at Kegati and Nyakomisaro has been repaired significantly improving water supply, quantity and quality. Already residents in some areas of Kisii Town have started enjoying improved water quality after the filter system at Nyakomisaro was replaced.

The second phase of the project has started and it involves construction of a 5,000 cubic meters storage tanks from the current 250 cubic meters. Further, the wastewater treatment plant at Suneka is being remodelled to increase its capacity to effectively process 4,000 cubic meters of wastewater per day from the current 2,000 cubic meters.

The existing sewerage system covers approximately 16.7km but very few plots are connected. As part of the expansion, plot connectivity will be increased to 100 per cent so that all individual households, institutions and government offices are covered.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Last month, our sportsmen and women represented us at the Kenya Inter-County Sports and Cultural Association (KICOSCA) games in Machakos County. Kisii County won gold in short put; 100 meters; 400 meters; 400x4 relay; tug of war and a bronze in the cultural folk song.

Equally, Kisii County won gold as the most disciplined team. Kindly give these sons and daughters a big round of applause.

Our best performers will represent Kenya at the 9th East Africa Local Authorities Sports and Cultural Association games next year.

This sterling performance has encouraged Kisii County to submit its bid to host the KICOSCA games in 2018.

Efforts should be made to ensure that those who go to these games are sports people because it is only through such exposure that their performance can be improved.

We shall continue developing sports facilities across the county to facilitate talent development. In this regard, we shall complete the rehabilitation of community playgrounds across the county.

Recently, the County Pensions Fund (CPF) recognized the Kisii County Government during their Annual General Meeting for consistent growth in membership.

In appreciation, the organization has offered to renovate the office we have allocated to Persons with Disability. This office will house the card printer purchased by the county to support this vulnerable group in registration.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Although education is not fully devolved, my government has continued to support this sector in recognition of its central role in the socio-economic development of our nation. To support needy students’ access education, we launched a County Bursary Fund where we disbursed a total of KShs.450million, one of the highest amounts in the country, during the first year.

This bursary fund was a success as it enabled schools to expand infrastructure besides improving transition rates to secondary and other tertiary institutions.

In the current financial year, we have have set aside KShs.155million to be disbursed as bursaries to needy students. However, disbursement will be guided by the new policy on free day secondary school education after consultation with stakeholders.

In the area of Early Childhood Education, we have set aside funds to construct latrines in two ECD centres per ward; purchase teaching and learning materials including desks and complete on-going projects in the sector.

To empower youth who do not transit to institutions of higher learning with requisite skills for employment, we have a comprehensive plan to construct and equip youth polytechnics across the county.

We have set aside KShs.29.8 million to build equip and renovate village polytechnics.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Over the past one year, the health sector faced challenges with disruption of services following protracted strikes by health workers. Regrettably, our people suffered and the effects of these strikes will live with us for years to come.

Now that the labour dispute has been resolved, we look forward to high quality service delivery in this critical sector. I urge health workers to dedicate themselves to serving our people.

We shall upscale budgetary allocations to the health sector to allow for establishment and operationalization of additional health facilities at the grassroots including those built through CDF and other agencies to bring services closer to the people.

We have funds in our budget to furnish these health centres and dispensaries with drugs and other equipment.

To strengthen community health, we shall partner with Living Goods, a non-profit organization, to enhance primary healthcare using community health volunteers. We intend to roll out this programme in January beginning with Gucha Level 4 hospital.

I also wish to report to you that last week, together with Governors from three other counties, I met ambassadors from three NORDIC countries. Through the Council of Governors, we have negotiated and received a grant of KShs.1billion, which will be channelled through the National Government to support health centres in the Counties.

I direct the CEC for Health Services to follow up so that Kisii County gets its fair share of this grant.

As I have told you before, the County Government secured funding for the establishment of a modern cancer treatment centre in Kisii. This KShs.2billion facility will enhance our efforts to combat non-communicable diseases in the county.

I wish to report to you that the Ministry of Health has now seconded two doctors to work in the Project Implementation Unit to help actualize this project. We are waiting for the Ministry of Public Works to appoint an engineer with experience in construction of cancer centres before rolling out the project.

These are conditions that were set by the development partners funding the project.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Implementing all these planned projects requires substantial resources and the current revenue base is not adequate to fund all these requirements. For this reason, we continue engaging development partners both locally and internationally to help actualize our development agenda.

I wish to report that last week, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Swedish Government on the second phase of the Agriculture Sector Development Programme. This will bring in an estimated KShs.100million to support agricultural programmes in the county and this programme will commence in January 2018.

I have directed the CEC Agriculture to ensure speedy implementation of the project to ensure farmers get the intended benefits.

Additionally, I also signed an agreement on the Kenya Urban Support Programme with the World Bank for Kshs.164 million. This will release funds for establishment and strengthening of urban institutions to deliver improved infrastructure and services in Kisii Town.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As I conclude, I wish to remind all of us that we have a bright future. We have set out goals in our development agenda but these can only be realized if we move and act as a united people.

We must mobilize and harness our strengths in the true spirit of our forebears to actualize our aspirations faster.

We must invest ourselves not only in the achievements our county has chalked, but also in the challenges because each of us is the face of Kisii County.

Before I finish my address, let me briefly talk about the political situation in the country. Since Kenyans went to polls on August 8, we have witnessed heightened tension in the country.

I wish to thank residents of our beloved county for maintaining peace throughout this period and I pray that tensions do not degenerate to the events of 2008.

I also most sincerely wish to thank the National Super Alliance (NASA) for putting the interests of Kenya first and postponing the swearing-in of Rt. Honourable Raila Odinga that was set for today. As a country, we need to talk to each other. Worldwide, we have ample proof that failure to talk to each other is a recipe for strife and clamour for separatism when sections of the society feel excluded and disenfranchised.

We cannot develop as a country if we cannot dialogue, so going forward, we must also foster inclusivity and ensure regional balance in political appointments.

Finally, I wish the people of Kisii County a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2018. As you enjoy the festivities, remember to exercise caution and restraint because usually, we witness disasters where some loses lives and fail to cross over to the New Year.

We welcome our brothers and sisters from the local and international diaspora who are coming home to join their families for the festivities. Karibu nyumbani.

I thank you. God bless you.