Business operators in Eldoret town are counting losses after bulldozers from Kenya Railways moved to bring down premises on railway reserve land.
Premises located 30 metres along the railway line and others on land reserved for the State corporation’s office and housing expansion were demolished.
From agro-vets to godowns and petrol stations, Kenya Railways was stopping at nothing in reclaiming the properties.
More than 400 jobs were lost in the operation led by Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya.
Natembeya said the railways land was not leased, reporting that the evictees had illegally encroached. He said the business operators were given notice through the media in 2019.
“Some people thought Kenya Railways had collapsed and went ahead to occupy its land and erected buildings. It is time for the government to recover its land,” Natembeya said.
However, owners of the destroyed premises accused the government of carrying out the demolitions within a short notice. They claimed the owners of the buildings had leased the property for between 25 and 30 years, a claim dismissed by the government.
Ambrose Rono, a businessman in the premises located behind Eldoret Central Police residence, said hundreds of people lost jobs and the Uasin Gishu County lost revenue, noting it was difficult to secure another business location.
“I had recently injected about Sh1 million, which was a bank loan, into my business. I have moved my goods to a godown and I do not know where I will relocate to. Kenya Railways should have given us an alternative location because we pay to run our businesses on their land,” the trader said.
Barnabas Kiplimo, a manager at one of the premises, said they chose to move their goods out before the houses were demolished to minimise losses.
“We are not happy with the directive, but we cannot brush shoulders with the government. We had to make the difficult decision of moving out. People are transporting their stock to their houses,” he said.
Khalid Suheil condemned the demolitions, claiming owners of the premises had signed lease agreements.
“Why do you allow business people to invest huge amounts of money in government land and then you order demolitions even before they recoup their money? The government should not be an enemy of investments,” said the trader.