For Kilifi chiefs, a tree shade is a ‘cool’ office

Wednesday January 23 2019

Chapungu sub-location chief Nickson Mapenzi

Chapungu sub-location chief Nickson Mapenzi (centre) serves residents under a tree in this photo taken on Monday January 21, 2019 at Chapungu village in Ganze sub-county, Kilifi county. The chief has operated without an office for the last ten years. PHOTO | SAMUEL BAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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It is 12pm and a group of about 20 people are gathered under a tree at Chapungu in Kilifi County.

One would assume the residents are taking a rest or discussing a matter of mutual interest or concern.

However, for them, the shade of the tree — locally known as “mkonga” — is the office of area assistant chief Nickson Mapenzi.


Every morning, the chief diligently reports to his "office", fetches a small table and seat from a villager's house, neatly arranges his documents and begins work. Within minutes, the shade becomes a beehive of activity as locals flock there to get government services.

“I cannot hide. This is my office and the only place I have known since I joined the administration 10 years ago,” Mr Mapenzi told the Nation.

Though lack of an office presents many challenges, Mr Mapenzi says he has to soldier on to make sure the government delivers services to its people.

“This is a two-acre land that was donated by the community to build a chief’s office. That is more than six years ago but nothing is forthcoming,” he said.

However, he adds optimistically: “I am still waiting with hope that one day I will get an office. We have tried to seek assistance but in vain.”

Mr Mapenzi is one of the many chiefs and their assistants in rural Kilifi County who do not have proper offices.

Instead, they use tree shades or rent small rooms in the villages. They share pit latrines with the villagers they serve.

In Bandari location, Ganze Sub-County, the local chief, Mr Julius Mwalimu, is grappling with similar circumstances.


“I used to work in a small mud-thatched house but it was brought down four years ago and, since then, I operate under a tree.

“Sometimes I hire a small room to operate from. It is a sorry situation but we have to continue serving the people,” he said.

For the one year he has been on this job, Mwakwala Sub-Location chief Henry Shujaa has not had any structure to call an office. He, too, operates from under a tree.

“Even my predecessor retired without getting an office but we are equal to the task and must serve our people. The challenges are there and during rainy seasons, things are tough,” he said.

Nambani Sub-Location chief Margaret Baya said she tried to mobilise the locals to construct an office but it was brought down by a rainstorm.

“I need an office. I tried to get the community to construct a mud-thatched structure to serve as my office but it collapsed several years ago,” says Ms Baya.