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Is Kawangware no longer home to hustlers?

By XN Iraki | January 29th 2020

The Kawangware I visited in the 1980s is quite different from the current one. Back then, it was a village, an extension of Kiambu and its traditions. It was made of shacks and open large spaces.

I recall the skeleton of a Pontiac sedan. General Motors no longer produces Pontiac. Today, Kawangware, which is separated from Lavington by Rusinga School, is going through gentrification just like Kinoo, Ruaka or Kikuyu.

Separating affluent suburbs from poor ones using institutions is common in Kenya. What separates Loresho from Uthiru? Wangige from Spring Valley? If there is no school, a forest or, previously, coffee plantations did the separation.

Kawangware, which is home to Precious Blood Girls’ School, now boasts several banks and thriving real estate. The banana and sweet potato farms now house high-rise buildings. The allure of the money must have tempted the inheritors of the land to part with it.

Investor dollars

The older generation valued land for its sentimental not economic value. The remaining traditionalists could not withstand temptation from investors and their dollars. Land formerly owned by ‘mbaris’ or clans can now be sold to global or local investors. The death of the original landowners freed lots of real estate into the free market.

The pressure on ‘original’ Nairobi has led to skyrocketing of prices in the suburbs, with some figures so high they look more like a lottery jackpot!

The renewal of Kawangware is not unique. Muchatha, Banana, Ruiru even as far as Uplands are going through the same. The ring roads will bring down the last traditional barriers to land ownership and its development.

Soon you will not feel shy to disclose you live in Zambezi, Ndeiya or Gwa Gitambaya. The incorporation of Kiambu into the city economy through the road network is one of the rarely talked-about legacies President Uhuru Kenyatta will leave behind.

The dollar, it seems, is blind to tribe, clan or tradition. The death of traditional Kawangware is an epitomisation of the future. The old order will be replaced by the new capitalists, devoid of traditions and borders. This is unlike in politics, which is very border conscious.

Who will benefit from this urban renewal? Who are the losers? Where will hustlers go once their former homes get new owners paying higher rents? I need your answers.

XN Iraki; [email protected]   

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