Stand off looms as KPC moves to evict thousands

Over 400,000 people have encroached on oil pipelines across the country

In Summary

• Most affected areas include Mukuru Kwa Reuben-Mukuru kwa Njenga slums in Nairobi and Kaptembwa in Nakuru.

• In September 2011, a pipeline leak led to a fire at the Sinai slums in Nairobi leaving  more than 100 people dead.

THE SCARS: Rebecca Nduti, one of hundreds injured in the Sinai fire, follows the proceedings at the Milimani law courts in which victims of the fire were seeking compensation/File
THE SCARS: Rebecca Nduti, one of hundreds injured in the Sinai fire, follows the proceedings at the Milimani law courts in which victims of the fire were seeking compensation/File

Close to half a million Kenyans have encroached on oil pipeline intallations in major towns of Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Eldoret, putting their lives on the line incase of a leakage or explotion.

Kenya Pipeline Company(KPC) yesterday said efforts to have the encroachers vacate its wayleave(right of way) have bore little fruits as “politics” and “ignorance” continues to play out.

This now leaves hundreds of families exposed to accidents similar to the September 2011 Sinai slum-Embakasi explosion, which left more than 100 people dead with over 160 nursing injuries.

“If there is any leakage, we will have a disaster,” KPC security manager, Major(Rtd) Harry Kithinji said yesterday during a joint supervision exercise of the oil pipeline running in between Mukuru Kwa Reuben-Mukuru kwa Njenga slums.

The two slums which are in Embakasi and Makadara constitutencies are among the most exposed, where residents have encroached the wayleave.

Some locals have gone as far as running eateries with open fire (kitchen) on top of where the oil pipelines are running. Other businesses include capentry, water and vegetable vending, second hand clothes dealing and firewood businesses.

The encroachment covering about five kilometres is on Lines II and IV which transport petroleum products from KPC'S Nairobi station to the Western Kenya region stations of Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu.

“Residents need to understand these are dangerous areas. Encroaching on KPC, Kenya Revenue and Kenya Power wayleaves is wrong,” Kithinji said.

Another notorius area is Kaptembwa in Nakuru where oblivious of the dangers, residents have encroached on almost a four-kilometer stretch, setting up eateries, shops and a market both on top of petroleum pipelines and under a high-voltage Kenya Power line.

Kaptembwa market is also sitting on top of line II and IV.

Other affected areas are Port Reitz in Mombasa(three kilometres of informal settlement and businesses) and some parts of Eldoret town.

Speaking during a joint supervision exercise between the government and KPC, Embakasi acting Deputy County Commissioner James Wanyoike called on the residents to vacate the land.

“They have to look for other areas to go and do their businesses. There is no option,” Wanyoike said.

Makadara DCC Fred Ndunga have those who hav encrouched on the wayleaves 24 hours to bring down their stractures and vacate.

“These people tested the fire at Sinai. We cannot allow them to risk their lives. Where there will be resistance, we shall use forceful removal,” Ndunga said.

Locals have however asked the government to implement a relocation plan which has been in place since 2010, where some people have benefited leaving out others.

“We are rady for dialogue with the government to find a lasting solution but in the mean time we are against eviction until a proper resettlement is done,” said Roselyne Asena, a representative(Chairperson) of the affected person.

KPC runs a 1,79-kilometre petroleum pipeline between Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret through Nakuru.

In the 2011 Sinai incidence, a leak from the pipeline sent rivers of super petrol flooding through storm drains into the slum.

The rivers of petrol exploded into flames, resulting in one of the worst fire disasters in the country's history.