Kenya: Reclaimed Riparian Land Remains Idle Across Nairobi a Year After Demolitions

Nairobi — The Government's move to reclaim public and riparian land late last year was hailed as revolutionary, with the team tasked with the implementation of the drastic initiative making a myriad of promises, in what was meant to change the face of the capital Nairobi.

What was then described as a wave of change some eleven months ago has become an eyesore to the public after authorities fail to keep their word, as established by a spot check by Capital FM News in affected areas.

Under the Nairobi regeneration project, which was jointly carried out by the National and County Government, City residents had been assured of new leisure parks and more green fields converted from the land which had been taken away by unscrupulous traders to develop high-rise buildings.

In Westlands for example, the land where Ukay Centre used to be is idle with no immediate plan to rehabilitate it for use.

The impact is more felt by small scale traders in the area, who complained of slow business.

On the day Ukay Centre was flattened, officials from the Green Belt Movement joined in the celebrations, after the land which authorities said was on riparian was finally reclaimed- they too made promises in honour of their founder, the late Wangari Maathai who bagged the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

"It is vital that Kenyans recognize the importance of conserving our natural resources, which include water catchment areas and wetlands', so as to promote sustainable development not only for ourselves but also for future generations," the movement's chairperson Marion Kamau said on August 16, 2018.

What happened to the trees they promised to plant?

As confirmed, even the few seedlings planted on that day, have since dried up; it is all bare, save for the growing weed ion river banks.

This reporter caught up with Peter Maina, a mechanic, whose yard was affected during the demolitions, ironically as he walked past what used to be his working area.

Maina is a bitter person.

"Why demolish everything and then leave it like this?" he rhetorically posed.

He had walked from his rental house in Kangemi in search of a manual job and every time he passes by the bare land, he said "I feel angry with the Government. If the land was public, why not make use of it or start small businesses to help the youths of this country."

"If this land is not converted for better use or cleared and trees planted, it will become a den for criminals. Yet we have serious businesses here like the Westgate shopping mall," the father of four said.

Nancy Wairimu, who owns a food kiosk beside the bare land share his sentiments.

"We no longer have enough customers. I had to fire some people. Why can't the Government make use of this land whether they put up a leisure market or a curio market," she proposed.

In Kileleshwa, the section where Java Coffee House and Shell Petrol Station were based has been fenced off by the developer who accused the government at the time, of destroying his business.

A billboard cautioning the public from buying the piece of land has also been erected.

"We Vivo Energy Kenya Limited (formerly known as Kenya Shell Limited) of P.O Box 43561-00100, Nairobi wish to notify all prospective purchasers and any other interested parties to transfer, alienate, charge, assign, lease, pledge or in any other way deal with all that property known as Land reference number 4858/16 measuring 0.2039 of a Hectare situate of Kileleshwa, within the county of Nairobi, that is and continues to be registered owner of this property with the right to peacefully own and use it in accordance with the Constitution of Kenya, 2010... " the caveat reads in part.

Other notable properties demolished in 2018 include Southend, a multi-million-shilling mall at the Lang'ata Road-Mbagathi Way roundabout on August 8 followed by Airgate centre formerly known as Taj Mall that was flattened by a bulldozer, famously known as the green mamba.

Little or no activities are taking place on the parcels of land other than a section where Airgate mall was, which has been hived off for road expansion.

On December 20, 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta halted demolitions of what was termed as illegal structures following public outcry.

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