Most people of Kitui County are poor, but they are a sitting on wealth that they are unfortunately unable to use. Kitui County is rich in varieties of minerals, but lack of information, squabbles and greed preventing their exploitation.
A good example is that of the Kanziko Sub County where the people are toiling on dry land that is rich in lime stone deposits. More than 10 years since geologists confirmed the presence of large deposits of the mineral, nothing much has been done and the economic transformation that was expected is yet to start.
Squabbles started with the lawyers who infiltrated the residents, raising prices of land and conditions of release. Not to be left behind, the national government started dragging its feet, with its administration officials apparently scheming ways to take big chunks of the wealth. Local politicians from the area also saw a moment to make wealth and fame.
A good number of local cement companies were the first to express interest in exploiting the resources, but after prolonged squabbles of their own, discussions cooled down. Bamburi was the first and abandoned the scene after paying Sh20,000 per drilled hole for testing and Sh10, 000 for each affected households.
East African Portland Cement too abandoned the scene after spending Sh4.2 million to pay Sh20,000 to each of the of the 210 Owners of Wealth households.
And the Athi River Mining Company left behind Sh800, 000 paid to individuals as down payment for land.
Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote entered the scene with much drama, going as far as entertaining the residents with Christmas gifts. He even promised to pay Sh30, 000 per hole drilled to test for quality. His brother literally camped in the area. It was announced that the billionaire wanted to put up one of the largest cement factories in Africa in the area. And the next we heard was that the Kitui County has set up a so-called liason committee to “carry out civic education and sensitize residents against welcoming investors who do not come through the liaison committee.”
The committee’s first “education” was an advice to the residents not to sell their land at a through away price to Mr. Dangote. “Dangote came in our formative stages, but my committee met with Ado Dangote, (brother to Aliko Dangote) together with his team at Kitui Governor’s office before he left for Nigeria shortly before that country’s general election, promising to return,” said an official of yet another group calling itself Ene Mali (literally translated as Owners of Wealth).
But with these antics, apparently the Nigerian billionaire decided he had better things to do and never returned.
Ene Mali complains, ““With the aim to undercut the original Ene Mali society leaders and confuse poor members for their selfish gain, a cabal of leaders bribed and poached some office bearers to form a splinter society.”
And now the poor “owners of wealth” of Kitui County are starting to regret. “Our sorry state is reflected in the meager structures of reeds and earth that are the dwelling houses for a majority of our people,” one of them told a newspaper reporter.