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With a prayer, Bishop Wanjiru wades into tear gas

STUDIES
By | May 25th 2009

Like most things Kenyan, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the eviction of mechanics from a plot near the Globe Cinema roundabout from which they have conducted business for years.

What is not in dispute is that they have largely been squatters on the property because they hold no official title to it. Not that this amounts to anything. As a past Lands minister once remarked, title deeds in Kenya are mere pieces of paper anyway.

Now, the mechanics would rather the status quo be maintained. But Jamia Mosque, the new owners of the property, has other ideas. They want to erect a bigger mosque and high-rise building on the site. This, of course, would fit pretty well with Mutula Kilonzo’s aspirations to turn the city into a sparkling metropolis, not a jua kali shed spewing dirty oil into the murky Nairobi River.

Paul Muite, who is holding brief for the mechanics, however argues that by virtue of having enjoyed use of the property for over 12 years without anyone laying claim to it, the mechanics practically and legally own the place. Something to do with an archaic law called adverse possession.

Typically, the police will have none of that legal mumbo jumbo. They have been clobbering protesting mechanics — and innocent souls caught up in the melee — to smithereens, a court order notwithstanding.

Breaking heads

Into this murky saga steps Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, her of the ‘glory is here’ fame. Leading her troops, she prays, "Stay put, we shall overcome!" Being no one’s fool, she visits the scene long after calm has returned and cops have ceased breaking heads.

A little earlier, when the police were evicting ‘squatters’ from a land adjoining the Nairobi River to pave way for its rehabilitation, Bishop Wanjiru was again on the spot, vowing to fight to the bitter end.

The scene is no different in Marakwet where law enforcement officials recently flung squatters out of a Government forest amid furious and tearful protests from local MP Linah Jebii Kilimo.

Curiously, the two are ministers of Government causing one to wonder if the Cabinet ever discusses these potentially violent evictions beforehand. If theirs are not political games and crocodile tears meant to hoodwink their constituents, it means the Government is conducting business in a most discordant and incoherent manner.

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