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Criminal gangs rule political hotbed

By - | January 12th 2013

By Jeckonia Otieno

NAIROBI; KENYA: Whichever angle one looks at it, Mathare North is one of the political hotbeds of Nairobi. Being heavily populated due to the high-rise buildings that accommodate a large number of people, it remains a darling of many political aspirants who mostly see the populace as a source of power – and money.

Due to a high number of youthful voters, the area is a vote hunting ground during elections.

Insiders in the area name a few informal groups that run the ground with one name sticking out sorely – a group only referred to as Matakwei.

A local leader says the group is supported by a civic leader and is used to intimidate residents and influence area politics.

It is one of the groups that have allegedly been used to prop illegalities like land grabbing that has been perfected in the area even with claims of involvement of the local Provincial Administration.

“Look at this piece of land here,” laments the leader, pointing to what used to be quarry but has been reclaimed opposite Ruaraka High School, “It was meant for a school but what has happened? It has been grabbed.”

The land in question was meant for construction of Kasarani Girls High School.

It is claimed as soon as the Prime Minister Raila Odinga commissioned the construction of the school, wrangles started and gangs were used to intimidate whoever questioned the seemingly irregular allocations –the gang allegedly at the centre of it all is Matakwei – made up of 16 young men. Apart from the gangs that run the ground, there has been long running tension between landlords and tenants. 

Most landlords, who do not live in the estate, leave the management of their property to the caretakers and agents who end up being a source of discord between the landlord and the tenant.

Timothy Onyango, a resident Mathare North Area 2 states, “Most of the time we are accused of not paying rent but it could be in defiance of the agents who act as if they are law unto themselves because most people do not know what their landlords look like.”

He points to a case that recently came up in Area 2 where tenants beat up a caretaker because he could not solve their problems yet; the landlord was nowhere to be seen. The tenants said that they had reported the case with the chief. Attempts to reach the Area One landlords’ chairperson, Mr Joseph Njoroge, to get his view on the whole scenario were futile. Other landlords were equally difficult to reach.

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