Mary Wango had planned to start enjoying her life at age 62: sleep as long as she wanted, enjoy breakfast on her balcony and tell old tales to her grandson as they waited for lunch to be served.
All looked fine until one morning when a yellow bulldozer arrived without notice at her house in Nyama Villa, Kayole. No one knocked. The machine brought down everything.
Mary knew that would be a new and difficult dawn, one she had never imagined.
From a landlady, she had been reduced to a squatter doing odd jobs.
She watched helplessly as the bulldozer cut through the walls she had toiled for years to build. With every crack, she felt pain.
When the two floors were flattened, she watched as youths dived into the rubble and left with scrap metal, door and window frames, tiles and furnishings — all the product of her sweat.
“My feet could not hold me, my eyes could not cry and my lips remained tight. I watched all I had worked so hard for disappear into thin air,” she told the Star.
The residents had lost a legal battle over disputed property. Demolition began on December 8 last year.
Mary, her three children, daughter-in-law and grandchild all lived together in a the four-bedroom house and rented out six other units, her sole source of income.
The 62-year-old said she had been given the land by President Daniel Moi when he was awarding Kanu delegates.
“In 2003 after saving money for years, we put up the structures. It was a lot of toil but I knew I was planning for my 60s and my children, but that is now gone with the wind,” she recounted.
School also torn down
Today, Mary and her family live with her sister in Komarock where they all sleep on the floor and are forced to wake up early to allow space for the house owners.
“My sister is now hosting with great inconvenience and no plan for tomorrow. The house is so congested so we wake up very early and leave, mainly to eke out a living from doing odd jobs,” she explained.
Mary’s grandson, whose school was also demolished, has stayed in the house as his parents have been unable to find a new school for him.
“He used to attend Shalom Academy which was also demolished. We don’t have money to take him to another school but we are still looking,” she said. Mary’s former neighbour Nelson Namisi lost his grandson Wilson Juma during the demolition.
Juma, in an attempt to salvage Namisi’s belongings, was electrocuted by hanging live wires and died on the spot, leaving behind three children.
“Juma wanted to save the doors and windows and had assumed the demolishers had turned off the electricity. He died immediately and a post-mortem indicated that he had been electrocuted,” Namisi said.
Juma was buried on Christmas Day. When others were celebrating, they were mourning.”
Juma’s firstborn who was living with him was forced to go back to his mother in Bungoma, enroll in a new school and start over.
Eighteen units belonging to Namisi, including his three-bedroom house, were demolished, forcing him to move to a one-bedroom flat.
“We cannot all live together in that house so we were forced to send one child to boarding school. All that we could rescue from the demolition is now kept on my brother-in-law’s balcony. Things are different now,” he said, desolate.
Where was the judge?
On Thursday, Nyama Villa residents went to court seeking an injunction to affirm the order to stop the demolition given by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
But the case was pushed to January 15 since the judge was unavailable.
The Kayole houses had been built on 20 disputed acres. Owner of Muthithi Investments Ltd Peter Maina obtained a court order to pull down the buildings following 10-year-long legal battle.
Families claimed the September 17 eviction order could not be enforced, calling it null and void.
The process was stopped after the government, through head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, ordered suspension of all demolition around the country until further notice. But the damage had already been done.
Though some house owners have started repairing partially destroyed structures, Maina has been sending warnings to them against against re-developing the area.
The families have sued Muthithi Investments for compensation.
Wilson Kariuki, the managing director of Wiskam Auctioneers that supervised the demolition, warned homeowners against taking advantage of the recent government order stopping the demolitions.
He said demolition was done in accordance with the law.