Nakuru municipality, the center of Nakuru county according to Kenya’s devolution map and former headquarters of the Rift Valley Province, home of several world-famous Kenyan runners, received a long-overdue promotion from a town to city status.
The elevations, conferred by President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 1, made Nakuru the 4th city in Kenya, after the Capital City Nairobi, Mombasa, located on the Kenyan shores of the Indian Ocean, and Kisumu on Kenya’s west, along the banks of Lake Victoria, the third-largest freshwater lake in the world.
Kenyatta praised Nakuru as Kenya’s melting pot and pulse.
“Historically, Nakuru is a melting pot where all communities live harmoniously. It is a known fact that whatever happens in Nakuru politically will affect the whole country. It is said when Nakuru burns, the whole country burns, and if Nakuru is calm, then the nation is also calm,” Kenyatta said. “We are giving you a city knowing that the peace in Nakuru will be extended to all corners of this country.”
Nakuru town is home to Lake Nakuru National Park, a major safari destination globally and home to lions, zebras, baboons, buffaloes, and spectacular flamingoes.
The colorful event was attended by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, believed to be Kenyatta’s preferred successor, while Deputy President William Ruto did not participate in the event.
Odinga and Ruto are seen as the top contenders for Kenya’s presidency after Kenyatta steps down next year at the end of his second term.
A one-time Kenyatta’s bitter opponent, Odinga is now an ally after reconciling with Kenyatta in a dramatic event in Kenya’s history known as “the Hand Shake.”
The March 9, 2018, public gesture of reconciliation took Kenyans by surprise, especially after Odinga participated in a January 30, 2018 event where he took the oath of office as the People’s President” in front of thousands of his supporters.
Odinga’s frenemy, fiery lawyer, and political activist Miguna Miguna presided over the swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.
In his remarks, Odinga praised Nakuru as an epicenter of Kenya’s agriculture and commended Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui for improving infrastructure.
A city status gives Nakuru the ability to attract direct investments and a more significant allocation of funds from the national government to improve infrastructure.
Kenyans in the diaspora have expressed mixed reactions to the upgrade.
“Lakini, why not? The more cities we have, the better for service delivery and maendeleo ya Kenya,” Maurice Othieno, a Kenyan based in the California Bay Area, said.
Othieno said the promotion would allow The City of Nakuru the opportunity to build better roads, sewage systems, water, and power grid infrastructure.
But the new status could come at a cost to the new city residents.
“I feel sorry for the locals who will suddenly be hit with high city taxes,” Othieno said.
While the new status would likely generate more investment interest in Nakuru and probably increase the living cost, it is unclear whether taxes would immediately go up. The city has not made any such announcements.