Twenty years ago, there were areas in Murang’a County that were associated with criminal activities and remained isolated.
Today, however, in the former crime scenes stand lucrative businesses that have erased the memories of the horror and fear harboured by members of the public after brutal ordeals at the hands of criminals and carjackers.
The notorious areas include Nguthuru, Makeji, Mukeu and Kaha-ini in Kandara Constituency, which were condemned owing to criminal activities in the 1990s and led to the formation of the lethal Makuyu Flying Squad unit led by former Chief Inspector Timothy Kamunde.
The criminals disrupted the transport between Kabati and Thika regularly after the armed gangs barricaded sections robbing passengers of cash and personal belongings.
John Wainaina, now in his 70s, recounts how the area was on police radar following numerous criminal incidents.
At night while driving along the section, he told Enterprise, pineapple thieves were spotted crossing the highway between Makeji and Mukeu carrying sacks of the fruits.
“The pineapple thieves had been a threat, as they battled with the Delmonte guards, inside the plantations,” said the former truck driver.
The crooks, he added, attacked convoys of a foreign envoy, and a senior administrator separately, an issue that led to major security operations in the nearby villages of Nguthuru and Makeji to flush out criminals.
“The crooks mounted illegal spikes along the deadly section where they defaulted vehicles before attacking,” said the former lorry driver who fell victim.
Last year, Murang’a County Government disclosed that Delmonte Kenya Limited (DKL) ceded 1,400 acres that will be used for the purpose of development.
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At Kaha-ini market in Kandara, another notorious crime scene along Kandara-Thika Road, stands Sabby Grand Hotel near where gangs in the past terrorised innocent civilians.
Along the same route, Stephen Macharia in 2019 embarked on constructing a petrol station which then earned him ridicule from friends.
He tells Enterprise that friends discouraged him from the business endeavour and warned him of consequences based locality’s history.
“I found the place viable for the investment as along the stretch there was no petrol station should motorists run out of fuel or any other convenience need,” said Macharia.
He later embarked in the construction of Sabby Grand Hotel which was opened last year, serving hundreds of people daily ending the culture of the locals travelling to Murang’a and Thika towns to explore the availability of conference facilities.
“I saw a vacuum in the locality and settled and I have never regretted owing to the services that I provide to the people,” said Macharia.
At Makeji, another known crime spot, Festus Kamau, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), Murang’a branch chairman, settled in 2015 after he bought land located next to the Delmonte Plantation.
“I was invited by a friend to check on a piece of land which I admired without checking on the past history,” he said.
He revealed that a partner who was interested in working with him pulled out without an explanation. At one time, some policemen on patrol had stopped near them and had a word with them.
He later constructed a petrol station on the opposite side of the road upon realising the potential that existed in the locality.
“After I opened the petrol station I was provided with armed police guards for two years and no incident has been reported at the premises,” added Kamau.
At the facility, Fort Hall Hospital has been opened as well as a modern mortuary thus increasing the need for opportunities.
Murang’a Trade Executive Kimani Mugo says the government has allocated 394 acres of land for the establishment of an industrial park and another for Kenneth Matiba Hospital.
“We have identified the area for an industrial park and also for the construction of affordable houses,” said Mugo.
He added that the county government was pleased with the interest investors now have in the areas that have been ignored for decades.