Fury as homes near Nairobi military base pulled down

Tuesday November 22 2011

By LUCAS BARASA [email protected]

Bulldozers on Tuesday started demolishing high rise buildings near the Moi Airbase in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate.

The buildings are seen as a security risk to Kenya Air Force planes taking off and landing at the base.

The planes are playing a crucial role in resupplying troops involved in Kenya’s pursuit of Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.

Sources said the pulling down of the houses followed fears that they could harbour “elements” keen on carrying out revenge attacks.

An area of 50 metres around the airbase will be cleared, the sources added.

But local leaders and owners of the buildings reacted with fury to the demolitions saying the government had allowed the construction of the flats.

“Is this a government of demolitions? Why is this government allowing people to build only for it demolish?” Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan, in whose constituency the area lies, asked.

Mr Hassan visited the scene on Tuesday together with his Embakasi and Makadara counterparts Ferdinand Waititu and Gidion Mbuvi respectively. They said those affected should seek compensation from the government.

First to go were two two multi-storeyed flats. Scores of people were left homeless with many struggling to salvage household items.

Their misery was compounded by early morning rains. Many lost household goods worth millions of shillings because there was no time to salvage them.

Mr Julius Mwangi whose Sh50 million three-storey building was affected said he acquired the land and constructed the building in 1995.

“I have been taken unawares. I was told in the morning by my workers that bulldozers had arrived. I have a title deed.

“I have been paying land rates to the city council. I have never been told I had encroached onto anybody’s land or that I have a questionable title,” Mr Mwangi said.

He likened the demolitions to “daylight robbery”, adding that citizens were at the mercy of military.

The demolitions follow similar ones at Syokimau and Kyang’ombe last week to clear the flight path of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. (SEE IN PICTURES: Nairobi demolitions)

More are planned for all airports, including Mombasa’s Moi International, Malindi and Nairobi’s Wilson.

In Eastleigh two rental flats housing police officers are among those earmarked for demolition. Officers and their families have been given five extra days to move out.

Residents said they were warned through loud speakers to leave the flats before bulldozers moved in. They had earlier been served warnings to vacate but had stayed put.

First to be removed when the Kenya military marched into Somalia were hawkers selling wares around the perimeter fence of the air base.
The area was then taken over by military personnel and police.

Soldiers, General Service Unit officers and regular and administration police ringed the area as demolition went on.

MP Hassan later raised the matter in Parliament demanding ministerial statement. The demolitions started at 6am and caught some of the tenants unawares. A teenager is said to have been injured when he tried to jump from one of the buildings.

A man who only identified himself as Mr Kagio, said his brother’s Sh30 million building was among those demolished. He said the plot had a genuine title deed which was used to acquire a bank loan.

“The banks usually verify the title and since ours was accepted it means it is genuine,” Mr Kagio said. Mr Samuel Kuria whose structures worth Sh2 million was destroyed said he acquired the land 20 years ago.

Mr Hassan regretted that “one arm of government gives licences for people to construct houses, another collects revenue while another demolishes.”

Area flooded

“I condemn the inhuman way the demolitions were done. The bulldozers came when people were asleep. Women and children were forced to stay on the rain while the area is flooded,” Mr Hassan said.

The MP said landlords who have been paying required rates and the tenants have a right to seek for compensation in court.

On Saturday, hundreds of shanties were demolished in Mitumba slums near Wilson Airport as part of the operation to clear structures situated next to vital installations. (READ: Hundreds left homeless in Nairobi demolition)

An official from the Ministry of Defence who asked not to be named said they had issued instructions for all structures near the Moi Airbase perimeter fence to be pulled down.

Due to Eastleigh’s proximity to the base, no building is allowed to be more than four storeys.

With about 50,000 residents, Kiambiu is one of the most recently established slums in Nairobi and borders Moi Air Base.