Everyone who has been following the position of ODM leader Raila Odinga on the Itare Dam project must have been flabbergasted by the ramblings of politician Koigi Wa Wamwere in the Nation edition of Wednesday, February 15. I call Koigi’s opinion a rambling because it doesn’t set out to tell the truth or proffer a sound opinion. Its clear purpose is to create a narrative that can be used to discredit the concerns over the project by fanning ethnic animosity.

Koigi’s entire piece is based on the untrue statement that Mr. Odinga has twice claimed that Itare Dam is intended to take water away from the Maasai and Kalenjin and take it to Nakuru County “to be consumed exclusively by the Kikuyu”. He does not say when the statements were made.

However, Mr. Odinga in a statement to the media on November 4, 2016, titled, “Another Dam, Another Crime”, laid out the grounds of his objection to the construction of the dam. He said that no public participation had been conducted among all the people whose environment will be adversely affected by the project. He said this had only been done in Nakuru County. He accused the environmental and social impact assessment consultants of fraudulently claiming that they held public forums and said that attendance forms had been forged. Further, he pointed out that no licences had been issued by the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) or the
Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA), yet the construction had been going on for one-and-a-half years.

Another concern he raised was the adverse effect on the area’s hydrology. He said it would cause water to drain from one basin to another. He also said many rivers and streams would either dry up or have severely depreciated water levels. Mr. Odinga called for a proper environmental impact assessment, genuine public consultations and halting of the project until this was completed.

Diverting water

I don’t know where Koigi got the issue of water being sent exclusively for use by Kikuyus in Nakuru County from, but he says it 10 times in an article of 15 paragraphs. What I do remember, though, is that shortly before Mr. Odinga issued his statement, President Uhuru Kenyatta, addressing a Jubilee gathering at Bomas of Kenya, stated that Mr. Odinga was about to accuse him of diverting water from the Kalenjin for the exclusive use of the Kikuyu in Nakuru. As it turned out, he had been misinformed as no such accusation was made. This false accusation picked up by Koigi, not only makes the unsubstantiated allegation, but also ignores Mr. Odinga’s publicly stated position. Mr. Odinga identified the areas that will be adversely affected by Itare Dam as Bomet, Narok, Kisii, Nyamira and Kisumu. But according to Koigi, Mr. Odinga said that it is the Maasai and Kalenjin of Bomet County who will be affected. In his attempt to force an anti-Kikuyu narrative, Koigi ignores the history of Mr. Odinga’s concern over the environment. The Itare Dam issue is not the first that Mr. Odinga has spoken out about. In 2012, he spoke about the destruction of the Mau Forest. He was ridiculed and told that he was misleading the public because it was common knowledge that the rains came from heaven, not from trees. He was accused of working against the interests of the Kalenjin.

Just a few months before raising the Itare Dam issue, Mr. Odinga exposed the secret “Tunnels of death” being constructed in Murang’a. He warned that Murang’a was going to turn into a desert in 10 to 15 years. Koigi does not refer to any of these since they contradict his political narrative of how Mr. Odinga is targeting the Kikuyu to capture Kalenjin votes. In any event, Nakuru is a cosmopolitan county. It is home to diverse ethnic communities. No one knows this better than Mr Odinga. It is a bit nonsensical to talk of supplying water, to use Koigi’s words, “to Nakuru County to be consumed exclusively by the Kikuyu”.

Mr. Mwangi is ODM leader Raila Odinga’s legal adviser.