It had been billed to be the nextSilicon Valley of Kenya, with a one-stop shopping centre, offering amultitude of products and services to its customers, all under oneroof.
Upon its completion, the much touted Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC) was supposed to have a 5000bed capacity Hamptons hospital, a 36-hole golf course, a shoppingcomplex, 4800 new homes and 150 km of improved roads.
But investigations on the ground depicta different picture amid revelations that it is a project being toyedaround with the main purpose of conning donors by those behind it.
Former Kakamega governor WycliffeOpayanya aptly sums it with a clear warning: “I know the placewhere the purported complex is located, and I know the purportedproprietor well…..the whole thing is a scam aimed at conningdonors. Nobody has ever seen all those facilities being peddledaround.”
Julius Mwale, a self-proclaimedmultibillionaire had a vision for his people of Butere….that oftransforming his village into a medical tourism hub centring aroundthe Sh 250 billion Mwale Hamptons Hospital complex.
Determined to actualise his dream,Mwale acquired 5,000 acres that were previously a sugarcaneplantation for a local factory that had collapsed and then reachedout to farmers inviting them to partner with him on the anticipated 25,000-acre community-owned metropolis.
“If everything had gone according tothe plans that we had been given, Butere town would have beentransformed into a mega town, attracting visitors from all over theworld. We expected a lot not knowing that we were being duped,”says Jacob Toboso, a retired teacher at the nearby Musango market, afew kilometres from the purported MMTC.
According to Toboso, despite all thehype, both local and international, there is very little on theground about the project.
“All those stories you hear about a5000 bed capacity hospital, golf course and shopping complex arephantom projects. Those things don’t exist at all,” Toboso toldthis journalist who was on a mission to establish the authenticity ofthe project that has earned Mwale international recognition.
Interviews with residents living inButere and neighbouring towns such as Mumias, Kakamega, Busia and Bungoma , and adjacent market places like Buchinga, Shianda, Musoli,Bukura, Malinya, Buyangu and Shiasa denied the existence of suchfacilities.
“The only facility at the complex isa small clinic that seems to be treating workers there. But there isno hospital there. Our people seek medication at St Mary’s Mumias,Kakamga, Kakamega County Referral Hospital or the Butere Sub Countyhospital. The so-called Mwale Medical Centre is a phantom facilitythat we only read in the press,” says a resident who onlyidentified himself as Lambert from Imanga, fearing the repercussions that would follow him if his real identity becomes known.
Lambert says that apart from themagnificent buildings that adorn the complex to signal the existenceof some serious business going on within, nothing else is going on.
“There is tight security at the gatesto ensure that nobody accesses the complex to know whatever is goingon inside in order to leak it to the outside world. If indeed thereis a hospital, why have they blocked the residents from accessing it?Can they tell you just one person who has ever been treated from thatfacility?” Lambert questioned.
Indeed our efforts to access thecomplex tucked on an expansive land between Mumias and Butere bore nofruit as guards from a private security firm manning the gatesremained adamant insisting that nobody is allowed without permissionfrom the authorities, whose names and contacts they declined to give.Tales abound from residents about theruthlessness with which the “proprietors” deal with individualswho leak any information about the complex or individuals perceivedto be opposed to the project.
“Many people have been attacked undermysterious circumstances for being opposed to the project. Some haveeven mysteriously disappeared after receiving death threats. This isa hot potato that nobody would dare touch,” one resident whodeclined to be named said.
To ensure that nothing negative aboutthe project sees the limelight, major leading newspapers like theDaily Nation and the Standard have been gagged through courtinjunctions.
“The media has been gagged to ensurethat nothing negative comes out. Any media house that attempts toundertake investigations on what is going on in the complex is eithersweet-talked with some adverts, which are eventually not paid, orthrough a court injunction,” another resident said.
Interviews with prominent personalitiesfrom the area also revealed that there is no golf course beingpeddled around.
Oparanya, who hails from Butere and atone time was vocal against the project , before signing an agreementwith the lead investor Mwale, says the whole thing is shrouded incontroversy and mystery.
“On the ground there is nothing, butwe read in the press about how there is an ultra-modern hospital withstate of the art equipment. We have also been told of the existenceof a 36-hole golf course that nobody has ever seen,” Oparanya saidin an interview.
Oparanya now wants the government toundertake through investigations over the said facilities and tellKenyans the truth about them.
“Logically do you believe the storyof the existence of a 5000 bed hospital capacity? If KenyattaNational Hospital (KNH) has only about 2,500 beds and is consideredto be the biggest in East and Central Africa, then a 5000 bedcapacity should be the biggest in the continent. But who are thepatients that it treats?” Oparanya questioned.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions(COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli warned President William Rutoto be careful not to associate himself with MMTC.
“We have thwarted several attempts tohave former President Uhuru Kenyatta and now President Ruto to visitthe ghost project. It is a big scam and President Ruto should becareful not to fall a victim of this con game,” Atwoli said.
Atwo said he has never heard of anybodyfrom Butere or within Western region, who has ever used the purportedairport, golf course or the hospital.
Mid last month, the United States-basedKenyan businessman Mwale was honored with a Social InfrastructureAward during this year’s Africa Prosperity Champions Awards inAccra, Ghana.
The award gala that was in recognitionof Mwale’s contributions and investment in health, primarily withthe establishment of MMTC, was hosted by Ghanian President NanaAkufo-Addo.
“Your decision, as anentrepreneur, to invest heavily in setting up such a major healthfacility in Kenya, is both bold and responsible. And, to make itaccessible to ordinary Kenyans, particularly those covered by theNational Hospital Insurance Fund, is most commendable,” said GabbyAsere Darko, the Chairman of Africa Prosperity Network.
Also honoured at the event includedPatricia Scotland, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth who washonoured for her efforts in expanding trade in Africa through theCommonwealth.
Other winners were President AlassaneQuattara of Ivory Coast, CEO of Afreximbank, Creative EntrepreneurMr. Eazi from Nigeria and Egypt’s deputy Speaker and chairman ofCleopatra group Mohammed El Enein who won the Africa Industrialistaward.
Now the locals are questioning theinternational awards being given out to a phantom project that hasnever benefited them.
“Some of these people purporting torecognise this man should not just believe the pictures they arebeing shown but should come to the ground to see the reality. Thereis no such medical hospital being toyed around to convince theworld,” says Mark Shikuku, a retired civil servant from Muluwamarket, told journalists.
The project that was to be implementedin three phases from 2014 with phase one being the construction of Mwale Medical and Technology City, involving construction ofHamptons Mall and a residential complex was to have been completed by2020.
The second phase of the project, whichwas done between June 2016 and September 2017, was to cover the firstsection of the 5,000-bed Mwale Hamptons Hospital, more than 70km ofroads, and over 300 street lights. It was also to cover phase one of4,800 homes expected to host doctors and nurses.
The third phase of the project, whichwas to commence in September 2017, was to include an airport, a36-hole golf resort and residences, a second mall, a conventioncentre, and a water park connected to the hospital by a cable car.
“There is no airport. Tell me whichplane has ever landed there. All these are stories meant to hoodwinkdonors in order to easily con them,” Oparanya said.