Leadership disputes hamper renovation of Woodley estate

From left to right, David Sosah, vice chairman Woodley Residents Welfare Society, Sam Gachago, chairman Woodley Residents Welfare Society and Silas Brilliance, interim secretary Woodley Residents Welfare Society during an interview with The Standard. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Wrangles among officials of Woodley Residents Welfare Association (WRWS) are derailing proposed redevelopment of the colonial-era estate.

In March this year, Governor Johnson Sakaja said Woodley is one of the nine estates earmarked for the urban renewal programme aiming to set up 40,000 modern but affordable housing units in the city where more than 60 per cent live in informal settlements.

“Nairobi’s population has grown over the years thus increasing the demand for housing. We have a shortage. More so a good per cent of the residents of this city are unemployed or low-income earners and thus cannot access decent affordable housing,” said Sakaja.

Woodley residents might not benefit from the project following a bitter fall-out among their representatives who are trading counter accusations over management of the society that is crucial to the implementation of the housing redevelopment initiative.

The chairman Samson Gachago and his deputy David Sosah have ganged up against the secretary Peter Ngatia whom they accuse of attempting to derail the proposed redevelopment by attempting to bring on board a man (name withheld) considered an enemy of the estate.

Ngatia says he has no links with the said individual and accuse both Gachago and Sosah of tarnishing his name while seeking to remove him from office through the back door.

“If they want to remove me, let them stick to the procedure as laid down in the association’s constitution. WRWS has not held its Annual General Meeting, which has been due since January 2023 contrary to section 29 of the Societies Act. Gachago and Sosah have been opposed to WRWS holding the AGM for fear of losing their positions,” said Ngatia.

Gachago and Sosah insist Ngatia remains suspended and that both Registrar of Societies and the Solicitor General have been notified to that effect.

Warning Ngatia to keep off the society’s affairs, Gachago maintains Silas Angira is the interim secretary. “He is a divisive figure at a time when the estate is set for the next phase of development,” said Gachago.

Ngatia claims some of the officials are against his push for a public participation exercise in the urban renewal programme. Other estates targeted include Bahati, Maringo, Jericho, Lumumba, Bondeni, Ziwani, Embakasi and Kariobangi North.

Woodley estate has been dogged by controversy after some individuals who were influential in the 1990s, acquired part of the estate.

The court in 2020 overturned the controversial acquisition. Environment and Lands court judge Samson Okong’o declared that Woodley was a public utility, which had been illegally transferred for private use and should be repossessed by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Court (EACC).