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CHAVAKALI JUNCTION, What’s in a name? Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow

The story of a piece of infrastructure and how its transformation threatens to not only rename a place, but redefine it. This is the story of Chavakali junction.

Across the republic, there are dozens of market places and vibrant towns that go by the name Makutano. The all have one transport feature that’s also present here at the Chavakali junction: a confluence of roads that link places of important socioeconomic activity. For the Makutano in Machakos county, the link roads meeting up are the one that leads onward to Machakos town from where one call access all of Ubukamba. The second road is the major African artery: the Nairobi- Mombasa section of the Great Northern Corridor.

Similar emerging towns can be found in Kirinyaga County and West Pokot county. For Chavakali junction, however, the aggregation of economic activity has been slow. This is besides the fact that the Chavakali-Kaimosi junction is the point where the Kapsabet-Chavakali road meets the Kakamega- Kisumu highway. This meeting of roads used to be a simple T-Junction. Today it is an overpass- roundabout combo. And this, makes all the difference for Chavakali, it seems, was destined to be great.


It’s all about roads and where they lead to and the places they connect. Kisumu and Kakamega are established historical and current administrative and economic hubs of Western Kenya. Chavakali is an important historical outpost. And so is Kaimosi, that started off as missionary outpost, at its seat at the edge of Kakamega forest.

Then there is Kapsabet town that continues to mushroom yonder to Kaimosi. Once an agricultural town, it now serves as the headquarters of Nandi county.

Further, without doubt, Chavakali serves a rich hinterland. First, the Nandi hills provide most of the milk and fresh produce for fertile but land stressed Maragoli. Secondly, within its vicinity is the Mudete tea factory, a key driver of economic activity these parts. Finally, Chavakali and the nearby Sabatia and Kaimosi lie within the bed of education of Vihiga county.

Nerve Center

This is to say that in a way, the Kapsabet-Chavakali road is an artery of education. Not just any artery, but an aorta of sorts as it serves a number of high profile academic institutions.

Kapsabet Boys, Friends Kaimosi University, Keveye TTC, Kaimosi Girls, Kaimosi Boys, Vokoli Girls, Keveye Girls, Chavakali High School and last but not least, Moses Mudavadi Mululu Primary School.

This is just to mention a few of the academic institutions in an area that has since precolonial times educated the people of Mulembe and Kenya at large. For those interested in high school rivalries, it’s easy to see why the rivalries between some of the schools mentioned above runs so deep.

Anyway, acknowledging these facts, one is left to wonder why the Chavakali junction didn’t take the route of more established similarly situated nodal urban centers in Western Kenya. Thus the questions beg: Why has Chava junction failed to take off? Why isn’t its story unlike that of Kamukuywa in Bungoma county? Or Kwa Dina Junction in Webuye or even Majengo town further along the road to Kisumu?


One mitigating reason has to be the scarcity of land needed for the full “Makutano effect” to unravel at the Chavakali junction. Just like Korinda in Busia county, the Chavakali junction is straddled by government institutions.

These public utilities occupy the most prime frontal property. For Korinda, it is the Busia prison. For Chava, there is a power substation along a host of other installations. In land scare Vihiga, whatever is land is left is likely to fetch a premium. However, in spite of these hurdles, with the completion of the Chavakali junction overpass, this is set to change.


Indeed change is coming. First, the ingenious matatu industry is quickly making the precincts of this piece of important infrastructure a transport hub. Much to the chagrin of travelers, matatu operators have made the Chavakali junction a point for “trading” of their customers.

Picture a matatu from Kapsabet packed with travelers headed to various destinations in Mulembe. At the Chavakali junction, often is the case that its’ journey will terminate there. Thus passengers heading on further are to be “resold” to awaiting matatus to complete their journey. Needless to say, this trading is carried out by ‘manamba’ at a small commission.

Image of overpass and roundabout at Chavakali junction with matatus in the foreground at Chavakali in Vihiga County

More importantly, this ‘trade of people’ reminiscent of the slave trade that took place in Chavakali in precolonial times has spurn off sister industries.

First, the ‘manamba’ need to eat. Thus, today at the junction hawkers peddling snacks and food to ‘manamba’ and travelers are a common feature. Secondly, boda boda riders seeking to make hay from ferrying passengers to Chavakali market and into the villages can also be spotted. Finally, there are the ‘stage managers’ doing whatever it is they do.

All in all, all this new activity speaks of a different future for Chavakali junction. This is to say that the seeds of a different tomorrow have already been sown.

Chavakali Junction? Chava Flyover? Roundabout? Or Just Chavakali

The question is will they grow? If they do grow, will they morph into vibrant trading centers like any “Makutano” out there? If Chavakali junction becomes the next Makutano in Kirinyanga, what will this new mass of humans and activity be known as? Will its story be like that of Kanduyi junction which came to be known just as: Kanduyi? So much so that if today someone says that they are in Kanduyi, they invariably mean that they are somewhere in the vicinity of the Kanduyi-Musikoma and Eldoret-Malaba junction?

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