By Eastern Newspaper Correspondent
The Mati road, which connects Meru, Tharaka Nithi, and Embu counties is expected to be an important socio-economic development factor.
Officially referred to as Ena-Ishiara-Chiakariga-Mituguu-Meru, Mati was adopted in honor of the late Bernard Mate, an MP from the region.
Area leaders and residents have placed high hopes on the road, which they say is the game-changer in the previously marginalized Tharaka region.
Tharaka MP Gitonga Murungara said already, it was boosting inter-county trade and relations as more areas are now accessible by the residents of the three counties, and others from across Kenya.
Relatively new top-class hotels, petrol stations, and commercial buildings have cropped up in the area, and local farmers are able to sell their agricultural produce.
“Though the road was made operational recently, investors had already started putting up new facilities along the route. The highway has reduced the time of travel from Nairobi to Meru. It has the added advantage because it is less hilly and winding, compared to the Meru-Embu road. Both smaller and big vehicles including lorries and trailers are now common on Mati road,” said Mr. Murugara.
Murugara said residents are a happy lot because Nkarini, Tunyai, Gakurungu, and Nthaara markets have had trade boosting by the coming of the road.
“Among the many new investments we have seen are new ultra-modern petrol stations and nice grocery shops and eateries. The increasing traffic along Mati road has resulted in increased trade at the Nkarini market and Tunyai, where a nice resort has come up,” said the legislator.
In addition to boosting transportation of passengers and goods between the three counties, Murugara said access to services and amenities had been made easier.
Mercy Kirimi, a farmer at Tunyai, said the local communities along the road were now smiling, a marked departure from their characteristic disaffection with the national government.
“We felt marginalized because we could not access hospitals, markets, and other amenities with ease. It was a good thing when construction was completed because we are seeing heightened economic activities. Commerce is on an upward trend, and more people have money from sales. But we have also noted with a lot of concern the emergence of many pubs in the area, which is not a good thing,” said Mrs. Kirimi.
She says due to the growth of small towns, the number of entertainment joints had exposed the previously conservative community to all manner of ills.
“Before; our elderly and youthful men used to partake of local brews in homesteads, for lack of pubs near here. Now the road has led to an increase in population and with it, new alcohol outlets. Seeing drunken men falling by the roadside after drinking too much into the dead of the night and broad daylight is sickening,” she said.
Kirimi, like other locals, fears that the pubs which are patronized by locals and visitors are becoming dens of immorality.
“Our girls and young women visit these centers to shop and to sell agricultural products. Unfortunately, sinful men who have money to burn cannot differentiate between children and adults. My neighbor’s daughter who is in secondary school recently became pregnant and when scolded, she revealed the pregnancy belonged to a lorry driver who frequents the bar. But he disappeared into thin air after she told him,” she said.
The completion of the road has also increased the number of people who have lost lives as a result of road accidents caused by speeding motorbike riders and other motorists.
On his part Geoffrey Kinyua said many young men are now spending a lot of time by the roadside, either looking for casual work or just idling around.
“The pubs here are full from morning to late into the night. Instead of getting busy helping their parents on farms they hang around the pubs, doing nothing but drink and stare at girls and people’s wives. The youth are excited about the road, but for the wrong reason. They want to get quick cash from car washes, loading, and unloading trucks and use earnings to just relax in pubs. Mati road has got both the good and bad aspects,” said Mr. Kinyua, a shopkeeper.