Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui has dismissed a Senate committee report alleging that his administration rounded up and dumped street children in Chemasusu Forest.
In the report, the Senate had wanted the planned elevation of Nakuru to a city halted until investigations into the incident are concluded.
But, in what could ignite a showdown between Governor Kinyanjui and the Senate, the county chief claimed that the Senate report was politically instigated to derail his administration’s quest for the elevation of Nakuru town to a city status.
“We have received news of a report tabled before the Senate to discuss purported mishandling of street children in Nakuru. Whereas we uphold and respect the role of the Senate in oversight matters, I fault deliberate distortions manufactured to fit a political narrative,” said Mr Kinyanjui in a statement to the press.
“There is no doubt that this is a desperate attempt to deflect attention from key development agenda that the county has undertaken and a cheap smear campaign. The conclusions and recommendations of the committee are at best a joke and reflect a preconceived political position disguised as a report of the committee,” said the county boss.
On Wednesday, the Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja-led Labour Committee recommended halting of the process of conferment of city status to Nakuru, after it emerged that street children were rounded up last year and dumped in Chemasusu Forest, allegedly by county officials, in an incident that left at least five children still unaccounted for to this day.
The Senate Committee wants the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate the incident.
Most of the street children who were affected are said to have been aged between 10 and 12 years.
The committee, in its report, observed that at least 41 children were forcibly removed from the streets by county officials, held in detention and on the night of February 6, 2019, dumped in the forest in Baringo County, as part of a strategy to “clean up” Nakuru to fast-track its city status bid.
“Despite the incident of unlawful detention and dumping of the children being reported to the Central Police Station in Nakuru under occurrence book number 69/7/2/2019 and subsequent follow-ups by the DCI officers on the issue, the issue remains inconclusive,” the report, released on Wednesday, states in part.
The committee held eight sittings on the matter after Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika presented the petition on behalf of five residents of Nakuru.
Senators commenting on the report gave the DCI two months to conclude investigations and recommendations for the prosecution of those involved in the incident.
Besides compensating the children, the nine-member committee also wants the National Council for Children’s Services to follow up on the issue and present the committee with a comprehensive report in 30 days.
It also wants the Nakuru county government to demonstrate what plans and efforts it has taken to address the plight of street families before the Senate process of conferring Nakuru City status resumes.
Investigations by the committee established that two county government vehicles registration KBR 801 and KBR 803U, allegedly driven by Joran Mbugua and Paul Musili, were used to transport street children to Chemasusu forest.
If the recommendations are adopted by the Senate, Nakuru’s bid to attain a city status will be in jeopardy and residents will have to wait longer for the town’s elevation.
The Senate Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations has been scrutinising the application by the Nakuru county government, to have Nakuru Municipality elevated into a city.
The committee was handed the application by Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka last year to establish if provisions of the Urban Areas and Cities Act have been complied with.
Mr Lusaka ordered the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations to look at the proposal and submit a report to the House for debate.
It is not the first time Nakuru’s bid to attain a city status is facing hurdles.
Early last year, Senator Kihika led several other leaders from the region in opposing the move, saying Nakuru needed at least 10 years to allow for adequate preparations before it becomes a city.
The leaders gave at least 10 conditions they wanted to be met before Nakuru Municipality attains a city status.
The leaders made the declaration when they presented a 12-page memorandum before the ad-hoc committee on the elevation of Nakuru Municipality to city status at a Nakuru hotel.
Since January 2019, Governor Kinyanjui has stepped up an ambitious push to ensure the town earns a city status.