Kenol: Murangas’ Own dangerous Las Vegas

Kenol town in Murang’a County, like Las Vegas in the United States, is known for its vibrant lifestyle, offering gambling, shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and nightlife. However, the similarities end there, as Kenol’s version of the Vegas-style life is characterized by its crude, dangerous, and unstructured nature. The town is under the control of cartels, causing more harm than good.

Established 22 years ago, the town derived its name from the pioneer fuel station, Kenol, which was started by William Mbote, the chairman of the freedom party Kanu in the area. Kenol’s popularity as a stopover on the Thika-Makutano road led to its name becoming ingrained in the minds of both residents and visitors.

Kenol’s skyline is rapidly expanding, with suspicious developers suspected of engaging in money laundering investing dirty cash in the town. The town has become a hub for shady activities, including the purchase of property by foreigners with drug-related cases and the presence of buildings constructed with looted funds from the National Government Constituency Development Fund.

The town offers a mix of residential and commercial rental spaces, with varying prices. It is home to financial institutions such as Amica and Mentor Saccos, Kenya Women Microfinance Bank, KCB Bank, and Equity. The dominant businesses in the town include bars, hotels, lodgings, small-scale traders, money transfer agents, and brokerage firms specializing in land and building materials.

Kenol’s growth can be attributed to the establishment of government offices and the conversion of agricultural land to commercial use through land subdivisions. It has become a melting pot and a convergence point for travelers heading to Murang’a, Nyeri, Meru, Embu, and Isiolo. However, the town also attracts criminals and has gained a reputation as a hotspot for illicit activities.

The town lacks essential infrastructure such as a reliable supply of clean water, proper sewage disposal systems, a bus park, and a structured market. These shortcomings create challenges for residents and businesses. Security concerns persist, with gangs controlling the town’s economy, engaging in activities such as pineapple theft, highway robbery, narcotics trading, illicit alcohol brewing, and cattle rustling.

Efforts to address these issues are underway, including the construction of a sewerage plant to improve sanitation and proposals for the development of a courthouse and a major highway. While Kenol has the potential to become a thriving commercial hub, with investment opportunities and thousands of jobs, it requires better governance, inclusive decision-making, improved security, and essential infrastructure to unleash its full potential.