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 5000 bed capacity. Hamptons hospital, a 36-hole golf course, a shopping complex, 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 Wycliffe Opayanya aptly sums it with a clear warning: “I know the place where the purported complex is located, and I know the purported proprietor well…..the whole thing is a scam aimed at conning donors. Nobody has ever seen all those facilities being peddled around.”
Julius Mwale, a self-proclaimed multibillionaire had a vision for his people of Butere….that of transforming his village into a medical tourism hub centring around the Sh 250 billion Mwale Hamptons Hospital complex.
Determined to actualise his dream,Mwale acquired 5,000 acres that were previously a sugarcane plantation for a local factory that had collapsed and then reached out to farmers inviting them to partner with him on the anticipated 25,000-acre community-owned metropolis.
“If everything had gone according to the plans that we had been given, Butere town would have been transformed into a mega town, attracting visitors from all over the world. We expected a lot not knowing that we were being duped,”says Jacob Toboso, a retired teacher at the nearby Musango market, a few kilometres from the purported MMTC.
According to Toboso, despite all the hype, both local and international, there is very little on the ground about the project.
“All those stories you hear about a 5000 bed capacity hospital, golf course and shopping complex are phantom projects. Those things don’t exist at all,” Toboso told this journalist who was on a mission to establish the authenticity of the project that has earned Mwale international recognition.
Interviews with residents living in Butere 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 such facilities.
“The only facility at the complex is a small clinic that seems to be treating workers there. But there is no hospital there. Our people seek medication at St Mary’s Mumias, Kakamga, Kakamega County Referral Hospital or the Butere Sub County hospital. The so-called Mwale Medical Centre is a phantom facility that we only read in the press,” says a resident who only identified himself as Lambert from Imanga, fearing the repercussions that would follow him if his real identity becomes known.
Lambert says that apart from the magnificent buildings that adorn the complex to signal the existence of some serious business going on within, nothing else is going on.
“There is tight security at the gates to ensure that nobody accesses the complex to know whatever is going on inside in order to leak it to the outside world. If indeed there is a hospital, why have they blocked the residents from accessing it? Can they tell you just one person who has ever been treated from that facility?” Lambert questioned.
Indeed our efforts to access the complex tucked on an expansive land between Mumias and Butere bore no fruit as guards from a private security firm manning the gates remained adamant insisting that nobody is allowed without permission from the authorities, whose names and contacts they declined to give.
Tales abound from residents about the ruthlessness with which the “proprietors” deal with individuals who leak any information about the complex or individuals perceived to be opposed to the project.
“Many people have been attacked under mysterious circumstances for being opposed to the project. Some have even mysteriously disappeared after receiving death threats. This is a hot potato that nobody would dare touch,” one resident who declined to be named said.
To ensure that nothing negative about the project sees the limelight, major leading newspapers like the Daily Nation and the Standard have been gagged through court injunctions.
“The media has been gagged to ensure that nothing negative comes out. Any media house that attempts to undertake investigations on what is going on in the complex is either sweet-talked with some adverts, which are eventually not paid, or through a court injunction,” another resident said.
Interviews with prominent personalities from the area also revealed that there is no golf course being peddled around.
Oparanya, who hails from Butere and at one time was vocal against the project , before signing an agreement with the lead investor Mwale, says the whole thing is shrouded in controversy and mystery.
“On the ground there is nothing, but we read in the press about how there is an ultra-modern hospital with state of the art equipment. We have also been told of the existence of a 36-hole golf course that nobody has ever seen,” Oparanya said in an interview.
Oparanya now wants the government to undertake through investigations over the said facilities and tell Kenyans the truth about them.
“Logically do you believe the story of the existence of a 5000 bed hospital capacity? If Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) has only about 2,500 beds and is considered to be the biggest in East and Central Africa, then a 5000 bed capacity should be the biggest in the continent. But who are the patients that it treats?” Oparanya questioned.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions(COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli warned President William Ruto to be careful not to associate himself with MMTC.
“We have thwarted several attempts to have former President Uhuru Kenyatta and now President Ruto to visit the ghost project. It is a big scam and President Ruto should be careful not to fall a victim of this con game,” Atwoli said.
Atwoli said he has never heard of anybody from Butere or within Western region, who has ever used the purported airport, golf course or the hospital.
Mid last month, the United States-based Kenyan businessman Mwale was honored with a Social Infrastructure Award during this year’s Africa Prosperity Champions Awards in Accra, Ghana.
The award gala that was in recognition of Mwale’s contributions and investment in health, primarily with the establishment of MMTC, was hosted by Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo.
“Your decision, as an entrepreneur, to invest heavily in setting up such a major health facility in Kenya, is both bold and responsible. And, to make it accessible to ordinary Kenyans, particularly those covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund, is most commendable,” said Gabby Asere Darko, the Chairman of Africa Prosperity Network.
Also honoured at the event included Patricia Scotland, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth who was honoured for her efforts in expanding trade in Africa through the Commonwealth.
Other winners were President Alassane Quattara of Ivory Coast, CEO of Afrexim bank, Creative Entrepreneur Mr. Eazi from Nigeria and Egypt’s deputy Speaker and chairman of Cleopatra group Mohammed El Enein who won the Africa Industrialist award.
Now the locals are questioning the international awards being given out to a phantom project that has never benefited them.
“Some of these people purporting to recognise this man should not just believe the pictures they are being shown but should come to the ground to see the reality. There is no such medical hospital being toyed around to convince the world,” says Mark Shikuku, a retired civil servant from Muluwa market, told journalists.
The project that was to be implemented in three phases from 2014 with phase one being the construction of Mwale Medical and Technology City, involving construction of Hamptons Mall and a residential complex was to have been completed by 2020.
The second phase of the project, which was done between June 2016 and September 2017, was to cover the first section of the 5,000-bed Mwale Hamptons Hospital, more than 70km of roads, and over 300 street lights. It was also to cover phase one of 4,800 homes expected to host doctors and nurses.
The third phase of the project, which was to commence in September 2017, was to include an airport, a 36-hole golf resort and residences, a second mall, a convention centre, and a water park connected to the hospital by a cable car.
“There is no airport. Tell me which plane has ever landed there. All these are stories meant to hoodwink donors in order to easily con them,” Oparanya said.