Kenya: Tension Over Plans to Demolish Popular Lunar Park

16 September 2020

Children and parents in Nairobi will no longer have the joy of experiencing the recreational facilities offered at the Lunar Park should plans to demolish it by the end of this week materialise.

Situated right next to Uhuru Park, the popular city recreational spot has been earmarked for demolition to pave the way for the anticipated Jomo Kenyatta International Airport-Westlands expressway as well as a bus station for public vehicles using the Ngong Road route.

With threats at the park's management to vacate the premises, the owner of Lunar Park, Mr.Gerald Kimari, has called on the government to be rational and offer compensation for the losses business owners at the park will suffer.

"We were issued a verbal notice on September 11 to vacate the park. No one has come to survey or even talk about compensation. We have received threats from our landlord, the Kenya Railways Retirement Benefits Scheme management, who have today (Tuesday) given us a few hours to clear the area of our properties and vacate the land," Mr Kimari said.

Started 10 years ago, the park has been the go to spot for many city residents who, together with their children, have enjoyed the services offered at the facility. From merry-go-rounds to carousels, swimming pools to swings, face painting and slides as well as beauty spas and eateries, the spot has been a source of relaxation and enjoyment for many.

Mr Kimari faulted the park's landlord for the unexpected order to vacate the land especially after paying rent to the tune of Sh1.4 million two days ago after resuming business following the long Covid-19 hiatus.

"We have been paying Sh600,000 monthly rent without fail for the past 10 years. We renewed our lease last November for the next nine years. We want compensation and enough time to enable us disassemble our equipment and move to another place," Mr Kimari said.

Plea for compensation

Ms Pauline Opondo, a business owner at the park, said they had no qualms with the government's development projects but wanted the right procedure to be followed.

"We are aware of the Big 4 Agenda and fully support it. However, where will our employees go now that they will be rendered jobless? We have come from the long Covid-19 break. After renovating our business premises, we are being told to go away! Compensate us, whatever we have has value," she said.

The recreational facilities at the park are valued at Sh400 million with additional investments worth Sh500 million injected over the past decade. .

"We have over 30 business traders and 300 employees here. A day's notice is not enough. The government is not fair to the common mwananchi. The Compulsory Acquisition Act provides for the compensation of those affected by such incidents. We want a formula that will provide a win-win scenario for everyone," Mr. Clifford Ngwala, a business owner at the park, said.

It is reported that President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the park last Thursday and tasked a team to oversee the smooth transition of the business owners to another area.

Some of the equipment at the park, such as the huge merry-go-rounds and carousels, cannot be decommissioned over a few hours as they have been ordered to, as it took up to a month to install them.

The business owners fear that the demolition may occur at night after they have left their business and call on the government to heed their plea for compensation and need for time to move their equipment and wares before the demolition.

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