14 May 2008

Kenya: Prayer Houses Pulled Down for City Bypass

Nairobi — A church building, mosque and other property worth millions of shillings were destroyed under the supervision of General Service Unit Personnel at the city's Utawala estate.

The buildings were said to have been sitting on the Northern bypass. The buildings were behind the Administration Police and General Service Unit training camp in Embakasi.

Many families were left homeless after government bulldozers pulled down the buildings.

Served notice

Sheikh Khalfan Khamis, the chairman of the Muslim Scholars Organisation which had raised funds to build the mosque, said they had not been served with notice.

"This is the highest calibre of sin; demolishing the house of God. The case will be presented higher than any court of law. The mosque has so far cost Sh4.5 million in building materials only," added the Sheikh.

Speaking to the Nation as the demolition continued, he said they were not aware that the mosque sat on land earmarked for the bypass.

He added that the mosque, which was designed to house 1,500 worshippers, had two offices and a kitchen on the top floor.

Salvage property

The masons working on the site rushed to salvage their belongings, but were blocked by the GSU officers. Mr Ali Babu, a foreman on the site, said that they feared they will not be paid their wages amounting to Sh45,000.

"We started construction on January 23, this year and the contractor was happy with the speed, but this is a shot in the arm," Mr Babu said.

"We don't know what to do next since we don't have a place to live nor money for use," the foreman added.

According to other residents, the demolitions took place after a feud between the area councillor and the chairman of local group that helped people buy the land.

However, none of the residents had title deeds to the pieces of land they occupied.

A church elder, Mr Jones Aunga of the Gods Grace Mission, said they had not bought the land, but had paid Sh10, 000 and obtained certificates.

"We never got any notice from the council. They should have given us time to salvage some of our property." He added that he was called from his work station and only to be confronted with a bulldozer flattening the church building.

"We had heard rumours that we are on a road reserve, but we measured 80 metres from either end and found out that we are safe, only to be shocked this morning," Mr Aunga said.

All buildings on the one kilometre strip were demolished in the operation that started early Tuesday morning.

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