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K-South where houses are inherited

By | May 21st 2009

By Faith Oneya

Apart form the famous red-bricked houses and the privately owned bungalows; it is impossible to ignore the beautifully built sprawling City Council flats and maisonettes as one enters Kariobangi South Estate popularly known as K-South.

Opposite these flats and maisonettes is a conglomeration of bars from Mahutinni to Sunflower Pub and finally Annex. These are places where many a times, Ohangla and Benga, greats like Tony Nyadundo, the late Omondi Tony and Musa Juma strummed their guitars to the joy of Kariobangi South residents and other adventurous revellers.

"See that house? The great Ochieng Kabasselleh used to live there. His family still lives there," Mwangi, a house agent reveals.

Kabesseleh, I learn, was a popular Benga musician. Here, houses are "inherited".

"You will never get a house here, unless of course you get married to a man whose family has a house here," says Mwangi.

The Kariobangi South City Council houses — flats and maisonettes that have been passed through generations.

Hawkers display their wares and occasionally shout out to customers. Here, for as little as Sh100, you can walk away with a pair of old leather shoes. Cooked food is also on sale, ranging from githeri to nyama choma.

K-South, as it is popularly known, is nestled between Pioneer Estate along Outer Ring Road and the Dandora Estate. Umoja Estate is to the east. Other estates bordering K-South include Buru Buru Phase One (to the east) and Kariobangi North (to the north).


The culture of sub-letting and building, "extensions" have encroached the otherwise beautifully built family houses that were initially meant for civil servants. It is now commonplace to find a two bed-roomed house with one bedroom housing a small family, the kitchen housing a young man and a young woman renting the living room. Such arrangements usually call for sharing of facilities like the bathroom and the kitchen, straining the drainage systems. Flooded and clogged drainages are, therefore, the hallmark of K-South.

The beauty of living in a sub-let house or an extension in K-South is that for as little as Sh2,500 (inclusive of water and electricity), one can get decent living quarters. Bigger rooms go for Sh4,000 but that is all there is to it: a room.

Pale shadow of old self

One bed-roomed houses previously went for Sh6,000 but with the coming of modern, tiled and well-painted buildings, they now go for as much as Sh10,000.

New, often poorly planned, buildings are springing up at such a high rate that the Estate has lost its original glory and will soon be crowded with tall unsightly structures. These buildings do not just house families but the trend of dedicating the first floors of buildings to businesses has clearly caught on.

The City Council seems unprepared for such developments, as waste is dumped by the roadside. Garbage collecting companies have cashed in on this but there is always the unscrupulous trader who will sneak out in the middle of the night and dump a huge bag of waste in the middle of the road.

Worsening trend

One cannot talk of K-South without mentioning the neighbourhood known as Light Industries (Lightie), which is composed of poorly constructed, low-cost housing. The place was earlier reserved for industries/small scale enterprises aimed at building an entrepreneurial base in the area as a way of fighting poverty. It is not a place you would like to be near past 7pm for security reasons.

At the end of K-South Estate, just before one branches off to Dandora is the Civil Servant Estate, which as the name suggests, was meant to house civil servants. Extensions and sub-letting are common here too but it has significantly few high-rise buildings and houses are cheaper than in K-South.

The new developments are eating into an otherwise serene environment and the ramifications of speedy developments can only worsen.

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