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Government announces crackdown on Kenyans living below power lines

Blackouts from vandalised towers have costed the government Sh246 million in repairs

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i and Energy CS Monica Juma meets security officials

People who have encroached on land reserved for power transmission lines across the country have been ordered to vacate in the next 30 days.

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Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang'i, however, said the clearances will be coordinated by country commissioners and grassroots-based National government administrators to ensure humane relocation and consultation with affected individuals.

Addressing regional & county commissioners, county police commanders, senior managers of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company and other energy parastatals, the CS said the government is keen to eliminate nationwide outages blamed on sabotage and vandalism.

A high number of the outages were reported earlier this month with many Kenya Power customers reporting perennial blackouts since.

We must work together to be a step or two ahead of these criminals. This is not about the Ministry of Interior or that of Energy but safety of our people. Working hand in hand will ensure we deliver secure transmission and that our people have access to safe energy,” said Dr Matiang'i.

The country was plunged into nationwide darkness when four pylons tumbled down in Embakasi after vandals reportedly tampered with critical parts of the installations.

An alleged scheme to vandalise more pylons in Naivasha which could have resulted in weeks of blackouts was also thwarted by security intelligence.

The incidences drew attention to the dangers posed by high-voltage pylons snaking through areas where designated wayleaves have been encroached by densely populated dwellings.

Depending on load and expansion plans, wayleaves should be between 60 and 120 meters on either side of the transmission line.

The administrators have been tasked with the enforcement of a ban on the trade of scrap metal announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week, intended to discourage vandalism of critical infrastructure by denying the material a ready market.

They will be required to develop a database of all scrap metal dealers in their counties and verify the registration and compliance status of the businesses.

We want to put an order in this madness. We will do so with a measure of ruthlessness, ” the CS said.

Under the new arrangement, county commissioners working with area commanders of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Unit (CIPU) will be required to map out energy installations in their jurisdictions and file bi-monthly reports on their security status.

The CS lamented that the apparent sabotage of KPLC installations amounted to terrorism and the undermining of the country's economy and said the government will borrow from previous successes in adopting an all-of-government approach to secure important investments.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma has confirmed that repairing the vandalised towers cost the Government at least Sh246 million in material and labour, estimating that businesses incurred losses running into billions of shillings.

The effects on the economy have been colossal. If the Naivasha challenge had not been averted, we would have seen our country plunge to darkness for 3 to 4 weeks, ” CS Juma noted.

The Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai said more officers from CIPU will be deployed to protect energy installations.

The meeting was also attended by Energy PS Major General (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa and the chairpersons and managing directors of KPLC and KETRACO.

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