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End of party for grabbers in dispute over prime Nairobi land

THE STANDARD INSIDER
By Moses Michira | April 23rd 2020

Youth take way an entry gate to Easton Police Station in Ruai, on Wednesday, April 22 2020. The station which was set up to man land was demolished by the government through Nairobi City Water & Sewerage after it was established the land was illegally acquired. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Until yesterday, Easton Park that was associated with a powerful politician was as guarded as a military installation, complete with intelligence officials and a police post.

Photographing anywhere around the 3,000-acre area belonging to the Nairobi City County was strictly prohibited, while the hawk-eyed security officers would ordinarily harass passers-by.

Modest estimates place the value of the property at Sh25 billion, minus the developments therein, including the fence and foundations of what is thought to be warehouses.

But it was a totally different story yesterday, as the officers watched helplessly, loaded their belongings, including mattresses, onto police vehicles, and sought new accommodation. It was evident that there was no prior warning that the eviction was beckoning given the level of ambush for the officers residing in a dozen mabati huts.

Government excavators roared to the property on the fringes of Ruai Sewerage Plant on Tuesday evening, backed up with hundreds of police officers drawn from various units – including the GSU.

Fifty trucks

The officers were ferried in their numbers from most of the police stations around the city in no less than 50 trucks to fend off any possible hostility, even though there was none by end of the day.

It provided locals with a rare peak into the property that had for long been an ordinary grazing ground before a fence was erected and heavy construction works started. Many locals were by Wednesday afternoon scavenging for steel left behind after the structures, including the gate painted in Administration Police colours, were flattened.

By yesterday evening, officers attached to Easton Park Police Post were helpless, as their colleagues helped have them kicked out just like any other tenants, who include a Chinese contractor. It would mark the end of a protracted battle between Nairobi County, which operates the sewerage treatment plant, and a litany of grabbers, including the senior politician, according to area MCA John Kamangu.

Mr Kamangu told The Standard the planned municipality belonged to the senior politician, echoing what neighbours and fellow MCAs have for long-held.

“A huge property development, which we think is owned by the senior official, was coming up there. I am aware it has been demolished,” said the MCA. Senior government officials, including Water and Sanitation Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu, flagged off the demolition, citing the need to protect the facility for the expansion of the sewerage treatment plant.

“It is the only wastewater treatment plant reserved for sewerage treatment for Nairobi City for now and generations to come,” Mr Irungu said in a statement co-signed by his Lands counterpart Nicholas Muraguri.

They indicated that the expansion of the sewerage treatment plant was on course and scheduled to start in July after the State procured a Sh20 billion loan for the project.

Only half of the city is served by a sewerage line while the rest have to make do with own disposal facilities including biodigesters, latrines and in slums, flying toilets.

Grabbing of the Ruai land has hampered previous efforts to expand the sewerage treatment plant whose initial capacity was intended to last the city until 1994.

For the nearly three decades, the population has more than quadrupled against accelerated migration to the city in search of employment opportunities.

As the seemingly idle and forgotten property stood by, thousands of squatters moved in and have since sold to several layers of unsuspecting buyers. Criminal gangs have often been deployed by the different grabbers to push out rivals, leading to tens of deaths, The Standard has learnt.

Representatives of the grabbers have previously claimed to have been granted the land in the 1990s – a period when politicians dished out government property in exchange of popularity, but with little regard to the collective needs of the country.

Backed by police

Each of the squatters estimated at 5,000 was allocated an eighth of an acre, which they intended to build homes on, but were violently uprooted from seven years ago. They would be forcefully evicted in December 2013 by a gang that was backed by police officers.

This has now gone full cycle, as the evicted squatters watched in joy as their tormentor was kicked out as well.

Government records relating to the land that was intended for the expansion of the sewerage treatment plant show it should have reverted to the government after the irregular allocation.

GG Gachihi, the Registrar of Titles, had in 2010 cancelled the allocation to the said private developers through a gazette notice, which would effectively have meant that even the squatters would not have a claim on the land.

“Whereas the parcels whose details are described under the Schedule herein below were allocated and titles issued to private developers, it has come to the notice of the government that the said parcels of land were reserved for public purposes under the relevant provisions of the Constitution of Kenya, the Government Lands Act (Cap 280) and the Trust Land Act (Cap 288),” he ruled.

Mr Gachihi specifically made reference to parcels Nairobi LR 209/11157, Nairobi LR 12979/3, Nairobi LR 12979/4, Nairobi LR 13444 and Nairobi LR 13446, which were illegally subdivided parcel 12979 – the area around the sewerage treatment plant.

“The allocations were, therefore, illegal and unconstitutional. Under the circumstances and in view of the public need and interest, the government revokes all the said titles,” wrote the Registrar.

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