By Fred Biketi
Risie ole Parmuat served for three terms as an elected councilor for Kimana Ward, Loitokitok Sub County since 1992 and an additional term as nominated civic leader.
Unlike today, when county assembly members get huge amounts of money for ward development, all the little money civic leaders received for development projects during his time was from the Local Authorities Transfer Fund (LATIF).
“County councils were broke because they depended on tax money from the government to foot their bills and only about 40 could afford to pay their employees but even those spend over 90 per cent of their revenue on salaries,” said Parmuat.
Councilors were also poorly paid as opposed to those serving today who drive big cars and take home six figure salaries apart from engaging in other luxury like foreign travel for imaginary bench marking.
Looking back, he is proud that with the little he received they constructed teacher’s houses at Nkariarokena Primary School, constructed classrooms at Empiron and Kimana primary schools, in addition to a nursery school at Maisoyati among other projects like cattle dips and health centres.
He was elected on the Kanu ticket in 1992 and 1997 before running on the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) ticket in 2003 after he joined 27 civic leaders who defected from the then ruling party to join Professor George Saitotiin the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2002.
The LDP party which also brought together the likes of RailaOdinga, Moody Awori and William ole Ntimama later merged with MwaiKIbaki’s National Alliance of Kenya Party to form Narc which defeated Kanu in the 2003 elections.
He regrets that despite farmers in Loitokitok Sub County producing a lot of tomatoes and onions, they have no steady market and have to transport the produce to far-away places like Nairobi and Mombasa to sell.
“The little profit they make is all spend on transport and yet we had asked the county government to help us complete a tomato sauce canning and bottling factory the local community had facilitated,” says Parmuat.
The project was conceived by the Eropo Women Group with the support of the county government which contracted a local company to install a new machine but the project later stalled.
The aging retired civic leader rues the death of the project because it was envisaged that canned tomato sauce from there could have found ready market at the many hotels dotted in the neighbouringAmboseli National Park.
The former councilor appealed to the current Kajiado County Governor Joseph ole Lenku to assist complete the project just like he helped complete the Namelok Polytechnic project which was started by his predecessor.
Hehowever laments that despite Lotokitok and surrounding having fertile soils and getting adequate rainfall that sustains agricultural production all the year round, there are so many pests that ravage their crops.
He appealed: “They cause extensive damage and therefore farmers spend a lot of money spraying crops, if they not do that, they do not harvest anything and that is why we again need assistance from the county government.”
Another headache in the area is the impassable roads because apart from the Emali –Loitokitok – Tarakea road which is tarmarked the rest are earth roads with clay – loam soils that become very sticky and slippery when it rains.
Parmuat is also concerned about the increase of crime especially in Kimana town, because the high mast floodlights that were installed two years ago were switched off due to non-payment of bills by the county government.
The on-going rains pounding the region have also destroyed a lot property and crops and yet the area experiences acute water shortage during dry seasons.
He has therefore appealed to the area Governor to allocate enough money for the construction of dams and water pans for both animals to drink and people to use for irrigation.
He said: “There is a lot of water here now, and a lot of it from Mt Kilimanjaro has flooded the rivers down-stream. Now that wildlife – human conflict has been contained we should harness the water for domestic use.”
Big Life, a conservation group run by donors, has erected an electric fence around the park which has minimized the frequent conflicts that used to occur in the past.
Although contact between wildlife and domestic animals is now minimal, Parmuat has asked the county government to carry out an immunization campaign of livestock in the area, because it has not been done since 2015, when it is supposed to be annual exercise.
“Since the devolved government came in 2013, it has only been done once and yet we have frequent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. During our time it was an annual exercise,” he said.
The man, who is now a contented farmer, says he spends most of his time looking after his tomatoes, vegetables, onions, maize and beans farms apart from looking after his livestock.
He however pleaded to both the county and national governments to look at the welfare of former councilors because they have been forgotten despite the work they did in developing the country.
“Tulikuwawatumishiwawatunatulifanyakazi (we served with dedication) and yet they give us empty promises despite the fact that parliament and Senate passed the Bill proposing payment which is now at county level,” he made a heartfelt request.
Money matters aside, Parmuat also requested that they be accorded some respect as former leaders during national functions where they are left to fight for space with crowds.
He proposed that they be allowed to give advice where necessary because of the experience they gathered when they were in office and cautioned leaders serving in both the county and national governments that they will also retire and experience what they are going through.