Land giant that cannot seem to get it’s act right

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Remains of one of the coffee factories at Mbo-I Kamiti company in Kiambu after greedy directors looted the former giant land buying company. BELOW: Paul Mwangi, the chairman of the Community Bridge civil society group. PD/FILE

Kenyans value land. The closer the plot is to a market centre or a big city the more attention it attracts and the higher the value attached to it.

However, a piece of land straddling Nairobi and Kiambu counties is not what any investor wants or admirer dreams of. 

The large swathes stand out like a sore thumb. It neighbours high-end residential and commercial properties and major road networks into Nairobi City.

But it lays fallow and bears painful memories those who have followed the history would want to forget.

This is the sad story of Mbo-I-Kamiti. And her neighbours.

While areas such as Gitamaiyu, Kamiti and Tatu City along the Kiambu-Ruiru Road have been receiving unprecedented growth, Mbo-Kamiti land and the neighbouring areas along the Kiambu-Kwamaiko Road are yet to attract investors.

Congested town

Joseph Kamau, a property dealer with interests in Kiambu, Machakos and Nairobi counties told People Daily yesterday that the decade-long dispute at the controversial land buying firm has not only discouraged investors from developing interests in Mbo-I Kamiti land, but also the environs.

“No serious investor, especially those doing business will want to risk their money on a piece of land which is dogged by controversy. Not even an individual buyer would.

And since Mbo-I Kamiti owns huge land along Kiambu-Kwamaiko Road, most part of the area is undeveloped,” Kamau said.

Other than Riabai, which is less than five kilometres from Kiambu town, and borders Kirigiti a previously small town reaping big from the congestion in the town, the only project past it is the 774-acre Migaa gated community next to Mbo-I Kamiti but which has taken long to take shape.

Mbo-I Kamiti owns, among other properties, Kilooma (284 acres), Matropi (298 acres), Anmer (218 acres), Kiura (365 acres), Kabaazi (218 acres) which are along the Kiambu-Kwamaiko Road, but Kilooma and Kabaazi were sold by the current directors.   

Coffee trunks and vandalised facilities with rusting roofs remain the state of the properties after money, power greed by individuals competing for its control plunged it into a situation of ignominy that was previously unthinkable to an extent of facing liquidation.

This has continued to affect development areas around it such as Lioki as well as Kwamaiko, which are in a sorry state despite their huge potential of reaping from the congestion of Kiambu town and shrinking of land for property business. 

Many hoped the development realised along Thika Superhighway, Kiambu Road, Limuru Road and Nairobi-Nakuru highway and their environs would trigger the Mbo-I-Kamiti owners to shake of the persistent wrangles and steer the company to great height, but this hope has morphed into despair and disgust.

For instance, along Kiambu Road and its environs, other than Runda and Ridgeways estates which have been in existence for long, recent estates include Runda Paradise, Kasarini, Mushroom, Kencom, Eden Ville, Five Star and Summer Fields among others.

High-end residential houses, rental flats and apartments have also sprung up along the area, notably at Kasarini and Thindigua, Kirigiti, Riabai, Mugumo, Ndumberi, Kangoya and Mburiria where are along Kiambu Road, Kiambu-Githunguri Road, Kiambu-Ruiru Road as well as Kiambu-Limuru Road.

Paul Mwangi, the chairman of the Community Bridge, a civil society which has interests on land matters said wrangles at the land buying company are largely to blame for the delayed development in the area.

“Had shareholders of the company been allocated the land as intended, they would have built homes and attracted other development including commercial properties.

Land prices would have improved but that cannot happen unless the mess in Mbo-I Kamiti is dealt with,” Mwangi said.

Mary Wanjiku, a resident of Kwamaiko, who used to reap big in the Eighties from the proceeds of Mbo-I-Kamiti operations, saying had the firm developed the land or sold it to serious investors, it would have helped transform the face of the area.

Land prices

“Even the other areas that are growing, it’s as a result of gradual development. But the problem of our area is that it is somehow locked because Mbo-I-Kamiti has a huge chunk of land which has not been developed and it seems it will take a long time before that happens.

The effects are land prices have remained low but still we have not been able to attract investors who can put residential; and commercial properties despite us being close to Kiambu and Nairobi,” she said.

The company also became a graveyard for some of its own directors, who have been killed in cold blood and food poisoning, notably Stephen Waweru (chairman) who was shot dead in 2011 and James Machua who was shot near one of Mbo-I-Kamiti’s properties on January 5, 2011.

The delay in development along the area persists even as regions along the Kiambu-Ruiru Road, especially Kamiti, which stretches from Kamiti Corner to BTL Conference Centre, continue to develop despite its past negative image.

The area had been turned into a hideout for criminals, who used to dump their victims and driving along the road even during the day was risky.

But in the recent past, the area which has for a long time characterized by bushes and long grass, has been getting a major face lift as investors rush to put up real estate projects as they seek to reap from the growing demand for housing. 

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