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Lit up Kisii 'no longer a lawless jungle of thieves'.

For many years, rape, muggings and killings were the order of the day in Kisii town. Many people left the streets as early as 4pm to avoid encountering thugs. The situation was so bad that some businesses folded.

The town hadearned names like Devil's Corner, the Mugger's Paradise and the Den Traders because of the high level of crime.

But on Wednesday, the business community praised devolution, citing the street lighting programme put up to combat crime.

Governor James Ongwae has promised to ensure all shopping centres in the county are well-lit to facilitate a 24-hour economy.

Ongwae said plans are underway to engage Kenya Power to set up more lighting masts in the programme through which towns like Nyabisiongoro, Omoringamu, Tendere, Nyamache Junction and Riobonyo market centre in Bomachoge Borabu and Bomachoge Chache subcounties have been lit up.

Other centres are Gesabakwa, Ibacho, Ramasha and Ikorongo in Nyaribari Masaba and Bobasi, Kitutu Chache North, South Mugirango and Bonchari subcounties.

"From the small and insecure town, Kisii is now cosmopolitan and it attracts investors from far and wide. That's what we envisaged when we started this," the governor told the Star.

"The primary motivation is to help our people make money from businesses."

Peris Kwamboka, a trader in Kisii town, recounted how in 1996, thugs raided her store in the town and stole goods. "Satan lived here," she said.

John Onserio, who has been a shopkeeper for 15 years, said the business community suffered at the hands of thieves. One day, he said, youths armed with pangas stormed his shop and carted away everything.

"Kisii town was a lawless jungle where thieves thrived," the electronics goods dealer said.

"Those were truly trying moments for this town," he says.

Mary Onchangwa, a clothes seller, says devolution has transformed the area and traders can now transact business even late at night.

On Wednesday at 9pm, the Star found her selling her wares under a tall street light mast. Ten customers were busy selecting clothes.

Onchangwa says she is thankful to the county government for lighting up the town.

"I wouldn't be doing much right now had it not been for these lights," she says pointing to the tall mast.

Like many low and middle-income earners, Onchangwa says business has been good since the county government started the ambitious lighting project.

"Whatever the circumstances, the prospects appear brighter," a shoe seller from Rwanda, who did not want to be named, tells the Star.

Annabel Anasi, who sells boiled eggs, says she has been conducting business peacefully for the past year. She makes about Sh1,000 from her business daily.

Ongwae urged unemployed youth to start businesses by securing capital from the Kisii Credits Scheme.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Feb 13, 2020
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