A woman weeps as her house is levelled during the demolition of houses erected on East African Portland Cement land, October 14, 2023. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

When 5,000 families were evicted from Kariobangi, Nairobi, at the height of Covid-19 pandemic, there was political furore.

Then Deputy President, William Ruto and his allies empathized with the families insisting that the government could have handled the situation better instead of rendering families homeless during the rainy season.

The Kenya Kwanza leaders tied the incident to the dynasty and hustler narrative and President Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua pledged that never again would the people experience inhumane evictions.

A year into government, the President and his deputy seem to have made a 360-degree turn and families are now being evicted from East African Portland Cement land in Athi River.

Addressing residents in Mathare, Ruto promised that they will pursue a win-win settlement in cases where families are threatened with eviction.

"We want to make sure that we are an orderly, human society that respects the rights of everybody regardless of who they are and their financial status, we are equal in the eyes of the Constitution," he said

"My government will work with you so that we can have a win-win settlement where nobody loses their property or their homes," he added.

A month after the Kenya Kwanza administration took over, Gachagua pledged that even when one had a court order they should ensure that due process is followed before they repossess the land.

He said where there is a court order, before police provide security for demolition, there must be a sub-county security meeting which must also interrogate where those to be evicted will move to.

"The president has directed that if there is a court order for eviction, it should be taken to the security committee to be discussed slowly. Number two it must be known where those being evicted will be going, there is no just random eviction," he said.

The DP said, there was no way that people would be evicted in a cruel manner under the Kenya Kwanza government.

"The Ruto administration will have zero tolerance to inhumane eviction like it happened before, that will not happen in his term as the President," said Gachagua.

On Saturday while addressing residents in Nyandarua County, the DP warned Kenya Railways against demolition of private property without the consent of security officials and locals.

But on Monday, bulldozers continued to pull down houses in Athi River forcing families to spend nights in the cold since the demolitions started on Friday last week.

The demolitions on the more than 4000 acres of land, LR N0. 10424, began after Lady Justice A Nyukuri, sitting at Machakos Environment and Land Court declared East African Portland Cement PLC the legitimate owner of the disputed land.

A man watches helplessly as his house is demolished for illegally occupying the East African Portland Cement land, October 14, 2023. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Officials of Aimi Ma Lukenya Society had gone to court claiming ownership of the land against East African Portland Cement.

Attempts by local leaders to offer humanitarian aid to the affected families were thwarted by the police.

On Sunday, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka condemned the demolitions terming them human rights violations.

"Leaders were barred from accessing the victims to deliver food, clothing and bedding, the exercise is unacceptable and inhumane. This is a very sad day, absolutely unexplainable, painful, distressful," said Kalonzo.

He termed the evictions a human rights issue, where children and women are spending nights in the cold while houses are being demolished and three schools and five churches have been brought down.

Yesterday, Machakos Deputy Governor Francis Mwangangi said that the evictions were a direct violation of human rights and against Article 43 of the Constitution which entitles every Kenyan to shelter.

"Since those evicted are Kenyans and this is their government, why wouldn't the government through Portland negotiate with them and ensure they acquire the land legally rather than cause them untold suffering?" Posed Mwangangi.

The deputy governor regretted that the families were going through pain watching the investments being demolished.

"The same government told its people that the inhumane demolitions will be a thing of the past and that they will ensure a win-win solution for such cases. Today they have gone back on their words," said Mwangangi.

Mavoko MP Patrick Makau said that Portland was government property and he had held several meetings with the management and they agreed they would sell the land to Machakos residents

"We had reached an amicable solution, why the turn around, is what we do not understand," said Makau.

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