Few public places in Kenya are as famous as Nairobiâs Uhuru Park located at the heart of the capital. Overlooking major government installations such as Parliament buildings and Nyayo House, the park, one of the few open spaces left in the city, encompasses green lawns, an artificial lake and an open stadium in a piece of land that is approximately ten acres. Its assembly ground has since the 1960s served as a political and religious venue. A monument and a public function at the park [Photos: Peter Muiruri/Standard]
A monument and a public function at the park [Photos: Peter Muiruri/Standard]
Due to a plague outbreak in early 1900s, the entire Nairobi town was burnt down and a new one rebuilt. Uhuru Park was created as the buffer between the natives and the Europeans just in case another plague broke out.
The park is associated with the heroes of Kenyaâs independence struggle, who would assemble there to plot how to attack the enemy â the white colonialists. Uhuru is the Kiswahili equivalent of âfreedomâ.
Over the years, Uhuru Park has been in the news for both good and bad reasons. In 1989, the Government came up with plans to construct a 62-storey building to be known as the Kenya Times Media Trust. With no political opposition to the Kenya African National Union (Kanu) regime, it was up to human rights groups to fight against the construction.
After a spirited fight led by the late Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Mathai, the mega plan was shelved.
Proponents of the multi-party system used the park as a base for launching their attacks against the Government. They would play hide and seek games with an overzealous riot police that would not hesitate to use tear gas to smoke them out.
Many sought refuge at the nearby All Saints Cathedral, adjacent to the park. Still, several arrests would be made leading to more protests; again at a section of the park that came to be known as the Freedom Corner, perhaps in line with the Swahili meaning of the parkâs name.
The park has seen some of Kenyaâs largest gatherings, including in December 2002 when Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as president and during the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2010.
Hive of activities