He is only 33, yet Mr Tony Kiriinya is already fighting a disease associated with much older people.
He has high blood pressure, and is balding. He has seen the doctor a number of times over his condition.
“I went to the doctor and he told me that I had high blood pressure,” says Mr Kiriinya.
His troubles started last November when earth movers rumbled into his neighbourhood and demolished his house, and those of his neighbours, at Syokimau in Nairobi.
Mr Kiriinya and his neighbours had acquired what they thought was genuine land and constructed houses, only to be told that the land belonged to the Kenya Airports Authority.
“Like any typical Kenyan, I felt that my priority was to have a house where my family would call home,” says Mr Kiriinya.
On March 30 last year, he paid the first instalment for the land to Jumbo Self Help Group in Syokimau. “I cleared the balance on April 15 and was given a certificate,” he explains.
He then took a Sh5 million bank loan, borrowed some more from a sacco and friends and embarked on constructing his four-bedroom house.
“I even sold my three cars,” says the accountant with a telecoms company.
Before the demolition squad arrived, he was in the finishing stages. Then his worst nightmare happened.
The demolition has left him almost destitute. He now lives on a shoestring budget as he struggles to pay back what he had borrowed.
“We’ve had to suspend buying things like clothing,” he says. “We concentrate on food and school fees. That was the darkest period of my life. I watched as the bulldozer brought down in 40 minutes what I had spent six months to put up.”
To make matters worse, last month Mr Kiriinya received a letter from his bank informing him that the interest rate on his loan had been increased from 14 per cent to 26.5 per cent. This means his monthly repayment will shoot up to Sh210,000 from the current Sh150,000.
“Life is not fair. I not only still pay rent but also have to pay back the loans from the bank and friends,” Mr Kiriinya says.
He, however, vows to own a home one day. “Though I am a victim of the demolitions, I do not consider myself as such. I can now afford a smile. I will still invest in a house again,” Mr Kiriinya says.
Mrs Miriam Njeri is another victim of the Syokimau demolitions. She breaks down as she remembers the moment her life took a turn for the worse.
Njeri is a mother of three girls and a boy. “They should have killed me. They have made me a miserable and helpless mother who cannot even feed her children,” she says.
From living in her three-bedroom house in Syokimau, she now lives in a single room near Mlolongo river. From here, she toils in the neighbourhood, washing peoples’ clothes for a living.
She had lived in the area for five years before the bulldozers arrived.
“We built a house there when no one else lived there. Giraffes and other wild animals used to pass around our compound,” she says.
Her husband left the family a year before the demolition, rendering her the sole breadwinner. She opened a hair dressing shop near her house, but it was the first to be flattened by the bulldozers.
“I had equipped the salon well to generate some income. Now I am a pauper,” she says.
The main worry for the 35-year-old woman is her children’s education. Two of her children are supposed to sit their KCSE examinations this year, but they have been out of school for much of the year.
Mrs Irene Sigei is another victim of the Syokimau demolitions. She had just moved into her new house when the demolition squad arrived. Together with her husband, she was in the process of laying the interior tiles, which she had bought for Sh200,000.
“The house was looking good that Saturday evening, the children were excited. However, we woke up to a rude shock the following day,” she says.
With no place to go, the family moved into a tiny two-room house in Mlolongo.
Her two daughters aged eight and four are still traumatised. They are scared of passing near buildings.
“I have tried to stay sane for the sake of the family; I had to be strong for my husband and children,” she says. “I thank God because we are still in one piece, though we have gone through hell,” she says.
Mr Kiriinya, Mrs Sigei and the other victims still wonder how they were allowed to construct houses without as much as a warning from the authorities.
Mr Ben Agava, the chairman of a get-together group formed by residents after the demolitions, says officials from Mavoko County Council used to inspect the houses during the construction.
Mr Agava, 35, used to run a school at Syokimau. The school, together with his house, were demolished. “By the time of the demolition, the school had 330 pupils,” he says.
He estimates that he lost about Sh19 million.
Mr Samwel Major Isiakho’s house was also demolished that day. “The children were very excited as I made arrangements to move our valuables to Syokimau. It never came to pass,” he says.
“I did not want to tell my family about what was happening. They only saw it on TV,” says Mr Isiakho
The Parliamentary Committee on Land, led by Gachoka MP Mutava Musyimi, visited the victims a month after the demolition and recommended that they should be compensated.
In an interview with Saturday Nation, Mr Musyimi explains that the committee concluded that most of those evicted were third parties who acquired the land believing that the documents were genuine.
The committee said the demolitions were done without prior notice, making it impossible for the victims to salvage their property.
He says the committee blamed the government for letting the victims settle on the land without raising an issue.
The report blamed the rot at the ministry of Lands for the irregular land transactions and called for action.
The committee says it gathered evidence that the land being claimed by Mlolongo Brothers Association and Uungani Settlement Scheme Self Help Group in Syokimau was compulsorily acquired by the government in 1971 for the expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and hence was not available for allocation to other individuals.
It noted that delay or failure by the Kenya Airports Authority to secure its land led to fraudsters taking advantage of the situation.
“The Commissioner of Lands was duty-bound to inform the public that the land is public property vested in the KAA,” the committee says.
It however observes that KAA consistently issued notices to the public and occupiers of the land in Syokimau, advising them not to purchase the land and asking those already settled on it to vacate.
The committee found that there was a poor coordination among government agencies in the approval of development plans.
According to Mr Ibrahim Mwathane, the chairman of Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) and a consultant in surveying and land information management, land buyers should be careful because certificates and land titles deeds were two different documents.
“Certificates should not be taken as part of the legal land documents. Each buyer should verify any documents and their genuineness with the ministry of Lands,” he says.
He said there were many people in the Nairobi and other towns who relied on the certificates as their only land document.
Following the recommendation of the House committee, hopes have been raised that the Syokimau victims will be compensated.
Based on their recommendations, in March this year, the committee picked PricewaterhouseCoopers, an audit firm, to assess the cost of the damage.
The Audit firm will also look at the modalities of restitution to the home owners.
A member of the parliamentary committee Peris Simam said their committee gave the firm two months to finish its work.
“They have until the end of May to present their report, which we will discuss in the House,” said Ms Simam.