Property owners on JKIA land to face eviction pain

Multi-billion shilling warehouses built within the JKIA that have been marked for demolition for before the direct flights to the US commence. [Photo: Courtesy]

It is a fresh round of tears and pain for developers who have built on airport land with property worth billions set for demolition.

An estimated 50 warehouses will be pulled down before October 28 when direct flights from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to New York commence.

Undeveloped plots will also be restored to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

Safety concerns are said to have informed the latest planned demolitions, specifically for travellers to and from the United States – a country that is highly sensitive to terror threats.

Should the properties be pulled down, it would be reminiscent of the round of demolitions in Syokimau in 2011 where devastated owners cried their hearts out as they helplessly watched bulldozers rip apart their newly built homes.

Moses Nyakiongora, the chairman of the multi-sectoral committee on unsafe structures, said that a two-week notice dated September 28 seeking the removal of the buildings was intended to guarantee aviation safety without risking human lives on the ground.

The notice, which was served on 500 properties, including those around JKIA, Wilson Airport and the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) staff quarters in Embakasi Village, expired last Friday.

Flight path

Those in the know said the demolitions would start on the flight path for planes landing at JKIA.

“Upon expiry of this notice, the illegally developed buildings, installations or erections will be demolished or removed from the flight path/encroached land without further references to them at their owners’ cost and risk as to any loss or damage incurred,” read a part of the notice.

By last evening, several of the targeted properties had been clamped with armed officers aboard several police trucks conducting surveillance.

General Service Unit (GSU) personnel were manning the properties that have been earmarked for demolition, and in one instance locked up workers in one of them for the whole day Monday to illustrate the gravity of the matter.

Those detained had arrived to work as usual, ignoring a prior notice that has left landlords shell-shocked as they start counting losses.

Nyakiongora has asked the National Lands Commission (NLC) to revoke the title deeds that were issued to influential people for parcels within the airport, as part of a wider scheme to address the tough requirements Kenya had to meet before being granted direct flights to the US.

On Monday, the KCAA sought to repossess the land where Weston Hotel, which is associated with Deputy President William Ruto, sits on.

Mr Ruto’s lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, appeared before the NLC to defend his acquisition of the plot on Lang’ata Road even as he questioned the jurisdiction of NLC to determine its ownership.

The NLC had written to Weston Hotel Limited to appear before it to defend its documents following the petition from KCAA. Ruto has denied irregularly acquiring the land, saying no one has ever come to claim the property since he acquired it.

Weston Hotel

KCAA Director General Gilbert Kibe, who had sought the NLC's intervention in the Weston Hotel matter, yesterday said it was the subject of a court case hence he would not comment.

The KAA has deployed tough security measures as the October 28 date draws closer to forestall any last minute safety breaches that would delay the start of the US flights.

Without a wall on the right-hand side of the planes approaching for landing, security guards have been deployed to complement police patrols on a section that does not have a security wall, with strict instructions to arrest any trespassers in the area that until recently hosted a Maasai village.

Tenants living in another tiny informal settlement built on a contested parcel lying directly below the flight path are also thoroughly vetted when coming home.

Construction on incomplete structures, including a multi-storied warehouse the size of a football stadium, have been halted pending the arrival of the bulldozers.

Security guards told The Standard that they were under strict instructions to only allow access to tenants seeking to remove any installations or equipment.

“We are required to arrest anyone loitering and hand them over to the GSU. I think they are very serious now,” said one guard.

Fraudsters posing as the legitimate owners of a surrounding 200-acre parcel of land, whose ownership is the subject of a court dispute, hurriedly sold plots of land to unsuspecting developers, exploiting a stalemate over its delayed compulsory acquisition.

It owner, Beatrice Gathumba, died four years ago in suspicious circumstances after being abduced before she could be paid Sh6 billion agreed as final settlement.

Her body is still lying in a city mortuary.

Without any children of her own, relatives and opportunists are lining up as beneficiaries to her estate, which she inherited from her husband, John Gathumba, who died in 1989.

Fight over the estate is a matter pending before the court before the proper beneficiary is identified to allow for the settlement in the compulsory acquisition, and the clearing of the village Mrs Gathumba left behind.

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