More than 5,000 people have been left homeless after county government bulldozers descended on their homes in a slum extending from Riara village in Imara Daima estate.
Yesterday’s demolitions, under the watch of a heavy contingent of police, began after the National Buildings Inspectorate ordered the removal of all structures built on Kenya Power, Kenya Railway and Kenya Pipeline Company reserves.
But residents claimed they had not been given enough time to move before the demolition squad arrived at 4am. Some accused the landlords of not passing on the information, while others heeded the notice and moved out.
“We were given two weeks to vacate before the demolition began. But where will we go?” asked Maurice Wanyonyi, one of the residents.
Businessmen complained of losses running into thousands of shillings as structures, including food kiosks, boutiques, hair salons and cereal shops came down. The owners said the cost of buying space was as low as Sh5,000 before construction. Rent would then be charged between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000.
Timothy Njuguna moved to Riara village last year, after his house in Mukuru Kwa Reuben burnt down in a fire suspected to have been caused by an electrical fault.
He lost almost everything in yesterday's demolition. His brother took his wife and three-month-old twins in.
“I am disabled and cannot do much. I relied on my wife’s income and the rent from one of the structures I own here. But now I have nothing. My children are at St Mary’s Hospital after they developed colds this morning,” he said.
Margaret Kerubo moved into one of the structures two weeks ago and claimed she was not aware of the eviction notice.
“The landlord was dishonest. Had he told me the truth, I wouldn’t have moved in,” she said.
Most of the residents are planning to move into nearby informal settlements including Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mukuru Kwa Reuben and Pipeline. While some said there had been regular notices since last December asking the residents to move out, a notice dated February 7 seen by Metropolitan said the demolitions would begin in seven days.
The notice signed by National Buildings Inspectorate Secretary Moses Nyakiongora asked the residents to take down the structures "in order to avoid human risks like injuries, deaths and damage to property associated with railway operations, high voltage electricity lines and oil pipeline (activities)."
The residents however maintained they were not given sufficient time prior to the demolition and urged the national government to intervene and resolve the issue.
Kenya Power on the other hand held that its infrastructure had been encroached on by informal settlements, posing a real threat to life as well as making maintenance work difficult.
The officials said the demolition of structures along the line would continue up to the power plant in Dandora, before they embarked on other lines.
Former Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra came to the residents' defence, saying there was an ongoing court case against the demolitions.
“You cannot demolish houses when a court case is still on. The process must be competed first; what is the rush for?” he said.