Things looking up for former gang paradise

A section of Kambi Shopping Centre along the 41km long Kangari Kaharati road that for 10 years was under control of a criminal gang. [Mwangi Muiruri, Standard]
For residents of Kigumo in Murang’a, the mere mention of Kangari-Kaharati road conjures one word: gangland. For about 10 years, the 41km road stretch had been controlled by criminals, scaring investors, and causing property value dip.

Ironically, this is the road to the Kamung’ang’a Gachocho village, home to Transport CS James Macharia.

But things are changing for the better. “When I came here in 2018, the transport sector was held captive by market monopoly, believed to be the Mungiki sect,” says Kigumo sub-county Deputy County Commissioner Margaret Maina.

It was then that the County Security Committee, chaired by County Commissioner Mohammed Barre, convened a multi-agency team that saw the criminals flushed out.

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Kigumo Commuters Association Secretary General Elias Mwangi says about 20 men, who openly introduced themselves as a quasi-Government group, collected taxes from traders.

“No investor was willing to risk sinking their capital in this venture and some of our shopping centres were becoming ghost towns since the gang was also responsible for armed robberies,” said Mr Mwangi.

This successful security operation to flush out the criminals has breathed a new lease of life locally, as the property market now attracts investors.

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Towns on the 41-kilometre stretch include Kaharati, Heho, PCEA, Kambi, Karuri, Muthithi, Ngaburi, Kirere, Karega and Kigumo trading centres in the lower zone category, while Gakira, Ikumbi and Kangari are in the high zone.

Caleb Wafula of New Generation Real Estate Investments says for 10 years, property market in the low zones was dormant, owing to negative publicity. “It was public knowledge that Mungiki controlled the stretch and anyone who wanted to acquire property here had to pay them registration and some monthly protection fees, or have their businesses subjected to break-ins and eventually close,” said Mr Wafula.

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This is, however, in the past now. “We are now witnessing a new dawn. An acre near Kambi Shopping Centre that was going for Sh700,000 is now Sh1.6 million,” he says.

Wafula says many clients would have bought the land locally in 2015, but market intelligence always underscored the gang’s reprisals.

Julius Nyutu, a developer at Kambi town, says his rental rooms are now attracting clients - both former customers and new ones. Last year, each room fetched Sh500. Today he earns Sh1,000 from each.

“We, as developers, are happy over the new turn of events. Routing out the criminals from our lives is one of the best things to have happened to this area. Most of the former dormant towns have started being renovated as trading opportunities return,” he says.

Judith Nzomo says she wanted to dispose an acre in Makomboki, near Kangari town in 2015, but shelved the idea due to the extremely low offers.

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“The farm had over 1,000 tea bushes, a two-bedroom farm house and a spacious compound with structures for dairy and poultry keeping, besides vegetable farming. The land had access to water and electricity and was near a tarmacked road. The best offer I got was Sh1.5 million. Some potential buyers said were the property not in Mungiki’s heartland it would have fetched more,” she says.

This month Judy placed the property on the market with an asking price of Sh8 million. So far the highest offer she has is Sh5.8 million.

“Security is a key component in the property market. The team in Murang’a County should continue to help this town grow. Many of us have lost out in the past decade due to rampant insecurity,” said Nzomo.  

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