AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECT

Pangani estate evictees accuse City Hall of breaching agreement

Tenants were ejected from their houses on Monday night and left agonising in the cold

In Summary

• Thirty-six out of 48 tenants had received Sh600,000 cheques and relocated.

• Tenants says they had until July 31 to move out.

Tenants in Pangani estate relocate from their houses after a forceful eviction by the Nairobi County Government on July 16, 2019
Tenants in Pangani estate relocate from their houses after a forceful eviction by the Nairobi County Government on July 16, 2019
Image: EZEKIEL AMINGA

It was supposed to be a quiet and calm night just like any other, but for a few residents of Pangani, it turned into a nightmare.

At around midnight on Monday, they were awakened by sounds of bulldozers and noisy county officers. The place had been earmarked for the affordable housing project. Tenants were told to vacate immediately.

They had two hours to act. Confusion reigned but they had no alternative. They had to comply, albeit grudgingly. They hurriedly removed all they could and got stranded in the cold as they had nowhere to go — at least until daybreak for some. 

 

The eviction was undertaken by the county government to make room for new housing units, which are among those planned to solve the housing crisis in the city.

In the last meeting held in May between the tenants and City Hall, it had been agreed that they leave by the end of this month,  July 31 to be specific. The residents could not, therefore, understand why the county officers reneged on the deal. 

Sheila Mwihaki, a mother of two, said they were abruptly left homeless. She had lived on the estate for 35 years.

“My kids and I had already gone to bed, only to be awakened by the sound of bulldozers and askaris. It was a scary scenario, especially for the kids,” she said.

“It’s really unfortunate because we have been in communication with everyone, including Governor [Mike] Sonko himself and his government, but look at what has happened. Is this really the way to go?”

Mwihaki said she was lucky to have taken her children and some of her belongings to a friend’s house. For the others, the agony was overbearing. 

“As tenants, we’re not against the project. We had come to an agreement [that we stay on] until month’s end, but right now I’m stranded. We have been ambushed,” Mwihaki said.

 

Many of them still have no roofs over their heads and their children are out of school. Only 48 tenants were to be displaced by the project. As of June 1, 26 had received Sh600,000 cheque each as compensation.

All the 48 had to relocate before construction begins. The latest county records seen by the Star on Monday showed 36 out of the 48 tenants had signed the vacation agreement, picked their cheques and moved out.

Sonko’s communication director Elkana Jacob urged the residents to work with the governor and “have positive minds if they want a better future”.

A tenant on Pangani estate relocates from his house after a forced eviction by the county government on July 16, 2019
A tenant on Pangani estate relocates from his house after a forced eviction by the county government on July 16, 2019
Image: EZEKIEL AMINGA

“It’s better we get a million blames but we do what will help the future generations in terms of development in housing. No property was destroyed and no single person was hurt in the eviction process,” he told the Star.

“If we keep on dragging, we will not achieve our goals and will not assist the President in his Big For Agenda. But we have set our record straight and this is not politics but purely development.” 

The Star established that some tenants, who had refused to pick their cheques, had come up with fresh demands. They had been promised that they would be prioritised when the new units are completed and were to pay Sh3 million each in installments.

Instead, they demanded they be given Sh3 million each. But the county government said their position was untenable.  

The tenants had further moved to court in an attempt to block the county government from proceeding with the project. To date, they have not received any stay order. If they do, the whole project could come a cropper.

Pangani is among the estates chosen for the pilot project. Others are Old and New Ngara, Jeevanjee, Suna Road, Ngong Road Phases one and two, and Bachelors’ Quarters.

Technofin Kenya was contracted to build 1,434 units in Pangani for Sh25 billion. The target site is a 12.5-acre parcel worth Sh4 billion. Phase I of the Pangani project was to be launched last year in December but has been beset by conflict pitting tenants against the county.

The tenants said the county had failed to give clear information, including a clear roadmap and timeline. But City Hall claimed some tenants were indifferent and only wanted things done according to their terms.

With the recent development, it is expected the county government will announce a date for the groundbreaking event for Phase I of the Pangani project.

(Edited by F'Orieny)