Befitting honour as Uhuru launches Hon Michuki Park

Friday, August 14th, 2020 00:00 |
Workers put the final touches to the fences and entrance of Hon John Michuki Memorial Park in readiness for today’s launch. President Uhuru Kenyatta will grace the occassion. Photo/PD/CHARLES MATHAI

President Uhuru Kenyatta is this morning expected to officially open the refurbished Michuki Park in Nairobi, eight years since the death of the man who inspired the project.

In what will be a befitting honour to former Environment Minister John Michuki, the President will be presiding over a project that was unthinkable a few months ago.

Indeed for a long time the park was considered part of the condemned sections of the city, a dumpsite and haven for criminals who terrorised city residents. 

According to Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko, the ongoing rehabilitation of the park is meant to improve its ecological veracity for public use and enjoyment in accordance with the Constitution. 

Tobiko says that more than two-thirds of the land was largely unattended and was used illegally as a dumpsite.

The ongoing developments include construction and repair of the fence, construction of a footbridge connecting the two sides of the park enabling public access to the river, construction of walkways and public ablution blocks. 

It is a development, which Michuki would have been proud of. For a man who accomplished what then appeared like a mission impossible; to reclaim and clean up the Nairobi River, which had been rendered lifeless by human and industrial waste, the park is a befitting honour for his efforts. 

Michuki’s feat to clean up the river would receive international recognition when the United Nations Environmental Programme presented him with a certificate during a UNEP convention on the control of movement of toxic waste held in Basel, Switzerland, in 2009.  

A senior UNEP official, Bakari Kante, summed up Michuki’s efforts thus; “Here is a man who looks beyond short-term ambitions, and acts for future generations; someone who is not driven by short-term interest, but by public interest.” 

  Michuki, on his part, lamented the irony of a city that was hosting the UNEP headquarters but was chocking under massive pollution.

“It is for this reason that my ministry took the lead role in the rehabilitation and restoration of the Nairobi River basin to support-natural ecosystem regeneration, socio-economic activities and improved livelihoods,” he said.

He added that the efforts had achieved some results, including stopping 30 per cent of the points where raw sewage and other waste spewed into the river, and planting 70,000 indigenous trees along its banks to restore natural vegetation.

According to the minister, some wild ducks had been spotted wading in a cleaned section of the river, near Kijabe Road, indicating that the water was becoming habitable again for living organisms.

Private developer 

When he embarked on the rehabilitation of the Nairobi River, few believed the water would cascade through the meanders of the city’s densely populated slums. But months later, it was happening.

But today’s launch is without controversy after a private developer yesterday protested government activities on the 26-acre land. 

In a media advertisement, Uaso Nyarobe Waterfront Limited, through their lawyers, warned the government against going ahead with today’s launch as the land belonged to it.  

“It has come to the attention of the registered owner of the parcel of land known as Land Reference Number 209/4360/59, that the ministry of Environment and Forestry has arranged a public function within the said land slated for Friday, August 14, 2020, wherein the executive has been invited and the use of the said property for a function is without the authority or consent of the registered owner,” read the notice.

Despite the warning, ministry officials and security officials continued with preparations ahead of today’s event.

Tobiko and Major General Mohammed Badi, the Director General of the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), were at the park supervising works, which included tarmacking of a road leading to the site and watering of lawns planted by Kenya Forest Service personnel. 

The notice published by MMC Asafo Advocates states that through Gazette Notice Number 9344 of September 18, 2017, and another one, No. 5423 of July 30, 2020, the registered owner notified the public of its ownership of the property and its rights.

A lawyer from MMC  Asafo told People Daily the developer had instructed them to handle the matter but had not expressed desire to move to court should his warning be ignored.

“We are under instructions to see to it that the orders are enforced as indicated in the notice,” said the lawyer who asked not to be named.

“It has come to the registered owner’s attention, information and knowledge that the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Keriako Tobiko, and the Kenya Forest Services have been making references insinuating and publicly declaring that the referenced parcel of land is a forest or public property and even arranging public gatherings and meetings within the property,” read the notice.

According to the developer, the history of the subject property started with the registration of grant number LR 11135 on January 24, 1955, when it was given land registration number 209/436, comprising 32.26 acres or thereabout and registered in favour of Ewart Scott Grogan for 50 years from January 1,1951.

On April 25, 1958, a portion of the land measuring 26.1 acres was excised, sold and transferred to several parties over a period of time culminating in a transfer to Uaso Nyarobe Waterfront on December 31, 2013.

The company accuses Tobiko of disregarding ownership documents and forcefully taking over possession of the property. 

The developer says he has instructed its lawyers to seek legal redress against such state officers, “who have continued to abuse their oath of office”, and the KFS, so as to protect its rights to property as enshrined in the Constitution.

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