Kakamega town and the Crying stone

The Kakamega crying stone
The Kakamega crying stone

The ‘Crying Stone’ locally known as Ikhongo Murwe stands tall in a bushy patch along the busy Kakamega-Kisumu highway, four kilometers from Kakamega town.

The unique rock feature epitomizes the tourism potential in the Western circuit and beckons warmly to visitors travelling to Kakamega for the first time.

From a distance, a patched strip runs from the top to the foot of the rock in a splash of aura and magical beauty.

Water and chemical substances dripping down the surface of the revered rock have formed what looks like tears dripping down the face. The remnants of the Equatorial rain forest lying to the East in Shinyalu constituency are the two distinctive features that make Kakamega a tourist hub in the region.

Also to be found in Kakamega are the colonial gold mines at the Rosterman area. Colonial settlers discovered these deposits during the last century, alienated vast tracts of land from the peasants and laid the early infrastructure leading to the establishment Rosterman.

Hoping the venture would be of commercial importance; the colonials then connected the area to the national grid, becoming the first in the then North Kavirondo district that brought together the current Western and Nyanza provinces.

The lure of wealth from gold prompted Governor Sir Montgomery (The locals corrupted the name to Magomere) to feign ill health, attributed to hostile climate and a mosquito menace in Mumias, which hosted the administrative headquarter of the traditional King Nabongo Mumia and plotted to a relocation to Kakamega.

Unaware that he was laying the foundation of a town that would become a commercial and administrative capital of the second biggest county in the country-Kakamega; the governor’s party lasted only eight years before it collapsed.

The gold deposits were found to be inadequate to sustain commercial mining. Towards the end of 1930, gold mining in Rosterman was stopped and the mines allegedly filled with toxic gases.

Disappointed, the governor established an office, residence and tribunal court as well as the governor’s pavilion (Masinde Muliro gardens) laying a foundation stone for a town that immediately slipped back into an economic coma for decades until the recent years.

Occupying an estimated 49 square kilometres, Kakamega town is located to the north of the equator, about 400 kilometres west of the country’s capital Nairobi.

The town is linked to the city of Kisumu and the northern corridor that runs from Mombasa to Malaba by the damaged Kisumu-Kakamega highway. Mumias road links the town to the ancient administrative capital of Mumias by a tarmac road running some 30 kilometres.

The town enjoys a relatively hot and wet climate throughout the year thanks to the only remaining equatorial rain forest in East and Central Africa, the Kakamega forest a rich home of flora and fauna rarely seen in other parts of Africa making it a tourist’s attraction.

Yes, the unexploited tourist potential, the natural forest flora and fauna, the good climate and fertile soils, and cultural practices that include bull fighting popular among the Isukhas and Idakhos communities are some of the untapped tourism potentials.

However, unlike other former provincial towns, Kakamega had for decades stagnated in development but things changed when the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology appeared on the scene-the institution was highly celebrated as the first ever factory to land in the town.

Retired President Daniel Moi upgraded then Western College of Arts and Applied Sciences (WECO) a constituent college of Moi University Eldoret spurring the town into economic growth. The establishment changed to Masinde Muliro University making the town a university town.

For years, Kakamega had remained and still is a consumer town with cash flow determined by civil servants with no factories.

The university has proved a big utility harnessing the town’s slackened economic growth through training and employment as well as lure investors to the region