Grace Moraa stared tearfully into the sky as an excavator brought down a bungalow she had called home for 10 years.
Opposite her, Collins Okoth tightly held on to his 40-inch TV and helplessly watched another excavator dismantle metal grills from the balcony of his first floor two bed-roomed apartment.
All around them chaos reigned and scenes from the biblical exodus were replayed as hundreds of residents at the expansive Nyamavilla estate at Kayole in Komarock Ward, Nairobi scrambled to salvage belongings from the imminent demolition that targeted more than 600 buildings sitting on 20 acres.
On the other hand, dozens of police officers, including Kayole police boss Joseph Gichangi, put defiant faces, maintaining that they were just enforcing a court order.
The Standard counted at least 10 police land cruisers, three lorries and at least 50 armed police officers.
Four new bulldozers and excavators were used in the demolition.
The demolition orders emanated from suit No.457 filed at the Environment and Land Court by Muthithi Investment Limited against 23 individuals in 2013.
The demolition orders were signed by Environment and Land Court Deputy Registrar last September 17.
The 23, according to the court order, had been given 90 days from May 13, 2014 to vacate, failure to which they would be evicted.
The orders said the eviction would be supervised by the Inspector General of Police, the Nairobi County Coordinator, Kayole OCS and OCPD.
“...the said defendants, their agents and/or servants have defaulted to vacate the suit property within the period ordered to do so by the court. You are hereby authorised to remove... all structures from the suit property known as L.R No. 23917 Nairobi or any person bound by the order who may refuse to vacate the under mentioned property.”
Muthithi Investment is linked to a city tycoon.
Dozens of dwellers who spoke to The Standard said they were not notified.
At dawn yesterday, Ms Moraa said, youths took advantage of the demolitions and the ensuing confusion to loot.
She said she lost Sh15,000, her mobile phone and vital documents.
“For over 10 years we have lived here and until this morning we never knew of any impending demolition. We didn’t even know this land was in dispute,” she said.
“The youth stole most of the electronics from the house. We lost almost all our valuables,” she added, wiping away tears.
Okoth suspected that landlords might have been hiding some information. He lived in a two-bedroom flat that had seven other units.
“They should have at least given us one day to salvage our belongings,” he said.
Beth Njeri, a mother of two, said she did not know the whereabouts of one of her children.
“This is very painful. They even stole my carpet and phone,” she said. By last evening it was not clear if she had traced her child.
Komarock Residents Association Chairman Peter Maina Kariuki estimated that a “half of Komarock Ward” would be flattened by the time the demolitions are concluded.
He claimed hundreds of youths dressed in yellow reflector jackets were brought in to oversee the demolitions. “At least 690 flats are targeted. It is very painful as people were not notified... and most are reporting huge theft and even cases of attempted rape,” he said.
A private secondary school with more than 200 students sits on the land, and so does a church.
Mr Kariuki said police arrived at around 5am and ordered people heading to work return to their houses and remove their belongings. He said the association would seek courts' intervention.
Naman Ogweno, a former Kanu activist, and one of the plaintiffs named in the court orders, said they were given that land by the Government.
“I was given this land because of my work for Kanu in 1998. Since then I have developed and have at least two one-story flats,” said the 56-year-old. “I am now a stranger in my own land. Where is Government?” he posed.
He claimed President Uhuru Kenyatta - who at one time launched nearby Komarock Heights - promised that they would not be evicted.
Gilbert Kasyoki spent Sh2.5 million on a 60 by 40 plot in 2007 and built a flat. “I was given an allotment letter and have been paying annual rates to the Nairobi City County since then,” he said.
“My tenants called me at six o’clock (to inform me about the) demolition. I will lose more than Sh15 million if my flat is demolished,” he said.
“The (previous) owners told me everything in the land was okay.”
Earlier, Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru was arrested as he attempted to intervene. Police fired teargas to disperse residents.
Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris also tried to intervene but her efforts bore no fruit.