Running battles as Nakuru demolitions enter day three

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020 00:00 |
Members of the public take to their heels after police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse them after they started looting from building be demolished in Nakuru town, yesterday. Photo/PD/RAPHAEL MUNGE

Police in Nakuru yesterday had hectic moments controlling members of the public - majority of them street urchins - as demolition of buildings sitting on a parcel of land belonging to Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) entered its third day.  

Clearly outnumbered, the police hurled teargas canisters at the unruly crowd in a bid to stop their mad rush for scrap metal but even this did not stop them and soon a backup arrived with security dogs to restore order.

All this time, the green “SANY” which gained celebrity status a few years ago during demolition of multimillion buildings sitting on road reserves and riparian land went about with its job unperturbed.

A few moments later, the final wall that housed the popular Falcon Restaurant and a chain of businesses including Shell Petrol Station came crashing down—into debris—and with it, the hopes of many traders crashed into pieces.

As soon as “SANY” left the site, the crowd of about 500 youth stormed as a small contingent of police officers watched helplessly. 

With the speed and thoroughness of the fish eagle, they picked every metal within sight as curious onlookers watched from a distance. 

Hata mkirusha teargas hatuwezi toka hapa (Even if you throw teargas at us we’re not going to leave this place,” one person   shouted from the crowd. 

KRC embarked on a week-long demolition exercise last Sunday after the expiry of a 90-day notice with big businesses with such popular entities like The Place Grill Park which is located along Geoffrey Kamau Road bearing the brunt. 

A 60-bed capacity accommodation facility by The Place Grill Park was to be launched later this month while a few metres away a modern car tyre and service centre which opened its doors barely three weeks ago suffered the same fate. 

The corporation says more than 300 businesses had been earmarked for demolition as rehabilitation of the old railway line which links Nairobi and the western parts of the country such as Kisumu and Eldoret gets underway. 

When the Sh3.8 billion rehabilitation of the medium metre-gauge railway commenced in July, KRC Estates Manager, Patrick Nzomo told the press private investors had been given notice to vacate the place in March.

Businesses such as car bazaars, pubs and restaurants, petrol stations and garages started sprouting on the railway land around 2012 as investors sought to get a share of the highly strategic land that had been lying idle for many decades.  

Some of the traders said that they had leased the land for between 15-30 years accusing the KRC of being “inhumane” saying that they had incurred losses amounting millions of shillings.

“They only gave us five hours to leave… They were too arrogant and didn’t want to listen to our grievances,” said a businessman. 

Expiry of notice

But Nzomo told the press that terms of the contract agreement allowed KRC to evict them after expiry of a 90-day notice.

“The Kenya Railways may repossess the land after giving a notice of 90 days. This we have done and the period has expired,” he said.

On Monday, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui distanced himself from blame saying that his administration had no hand at all in the matter. 

“We wish to state that this exercise is by KRC and other agencies and the county government of Nakuru is not involved.

“The land belongs to KRC and we have no say at all because this is purely a contractual matter between the corporation and private investors,” he explained. 

However, he said that the affected traders should had been given ample time to leave and protect them from losses.

The demolition is also expected to pave way for the Sh160 billion expansion of Nairobi-Nakuru Highway from Rironi to Mau Summit which is expected to start before end of the year. 

In Naivasha, over 700 peasant farmers affected by the new meter-gauge in Mai Mahiu Naivasha have threatened to go to court to stop the construction of the Sh3.5 billion project until they are compensated.

The farmers accused Kenya Railways of embarking on works on the 24km railway line without their consent or compensation.

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