Tension runs high in a section of Kibera days after residents were served notice to vacate land earmarked for a road reserve. Demolitions were set to begin last week, which did not go down well with residents whose houses were targeted in the demolition exercise; an inevitable exercise that seeks to pave way for the construction of the Ngong Road/ Kibera/Kiungu Karumba/ Langata link Road.
The initial demolitions in June rendered at least 400 families homeless; an occurrence that led Ken Okoth, Member of Parliament for Kibra, to call on the government to offer compensation to victims and resort to more humane ways of evicting the affected.
This, however, is at variance with the Kenya Urban Roads Authority’s stand it would not give compensation to people illegally occupying government land. So high has been the tension that the deadline on the vacation notice was extended by one week from Monday.
The stand-off over the Sh2 billion link road passing through Kibera is akin to what is happening in Turkana over the oil fields. Last month, residents stopped trucks from transporting oil to Mombasa until their demands on security were met. But as much as their concerns are genuine, holding the government to ransom is not the way to go. Now, Tullow has threatened to pull out of Turkana altogether should the siege continue.
Discernible from such stand-offs is the sad reality that communities have not been sensitized enough to view public infrastructure and development as a good, rather than an inconvenience or a curse.
Here the government, as the facilitator of such sensitization campaigns, appears to have fallen short. However, the principle is that for one to make an omelette, one must break an egg.
Nonetheless, in the case of the Kibera road reserve, some people in government saw the structures coming but did nothing, even knowing the parcel of land was a road reserve. Perhaps the consideration was the protection fee from those encroaching on the land.
Culpability falls on county government officers, the police, the local roads people. The illegal structures didn’t just drop from the skies. They failed to do their job despite earning a salary. Simply put; they stole government time. Moreover, these delays eat into the time of the projects and the costs thereof get loaded into the project.