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CAUSE FOR WORRY

Anxiety as Tobiko set to bring down multibillion-shilling homes in Lang'ata

Section of forest was degazetted by former Environment minister Francis Lotodo in 1998

In Summary

•  Many of those to be affected are retirees who spent their savings to purchase land and build the homes

• They say that their children are worried after they heard that wild animals will be unleashed to roam the area.

A section of Sunvalley Estate Phase 1 at Langata area on Jne 28, 2020
A section of Sunvalley Estate Phase 1 at Langata area on Jne 28, 2020
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Anxiety has gripped over 20,000 residents of gated communities in Lang'ata following Environment and Forestry Ministry's announcement of evictions from homes built on Ngong Forest land.

The announcement made by Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko affects among others Sun Valley (Phases 1-3), Forest View, Lang’ata Place, Lang’ata View Apartments, Royal Park, St Mary’s Apartment, KMA Lang’ata and Shalom estates.

The homes are  retirement savings of most of the owners. Some are now likely to  default on their mortgages.

“Over 70 per cent of residents have mortgaged their title deeds to banks and financial institutions. What this means is that banks will now be reluctant to give loans using title deeds as collateral,” Sunvalley Phase 1 Estate resident Waswa Wekesa said. He spent Sh10 million to build his home.

Wekesa, a committee member of Sunvalley Residents Association, said over 2,000 families in the gated community will become homeless if the government makes good its threat. He has lived in the estate since 2008.

“Where does one go from here? This is like sending retirees to their early grave because such news can worsen the medical condition of those affected,” he said.

The Sunvalley homes are mainly three-bedroom bungalows, each with a market value of Sh20 million.

Children rode their bikes oblivious of the looming disaster at Royal Estate when the Star visited.

Gladys Maisiba said she had invested Sh50 million to buy and build the home at Royal Park Estate. 

“Why would the government accept our yearly land rates if they knew that we were living here illegally? We went to the Lands ministry and did a search and we confirmed all was clear,” Maisiba, who is the vice chair of Royal Park Residents Association, said with a smile that hid her frustration and anger. 

Like Sunvalley, most of the 700 homes at Royal Park belong to retirees who invested their life savings there.

The reality of their fate started sinking in last week when Kenya Forest Service officers arrived to survey the area.

“People were traumatised because all through the day they could see a helicopter hovering overhead. For most of us, that was the first day we were encountering KFS officers,” Wekesa said.

He is particularly worried about their children who are now scared to play outside after the visit by the KFS officers.

“Ever since the children heard that wild animals will be unleashed to roam around they were scared. These are reckless statements that should not be made by a government official,” he said.

Similarly worried are Sunvalley Phase 3 servant quarters' tenants.

We have just heard of the planned demolition. We do not know what to do because right now it is hard to find a new place to stay,” a young man who pays Sh6,500 rent, said.

At KMA Lang'ata, the latest turn of events presents an added headache for residents, most of them doctors fighting Covid-19.

“These doctors who are helping us fight coronavirus have to worry about their own houses set for demolition. How are you supposed to focus on your patients while your family is not secure?” Wekesa asked.

The effects of the demolition will be felt far and beyond the 53.6 hectare estate.

“The estate supports close to more than 10,000 people from neighbouring Kibera, Otiende, Nairobi West and adjoining high density low income areas that supply direct services and products,” Sunvalley Residents Association chairman Frederick Majimbo said in a statement.

A security guard in one of the gated communities asked: “Where is this country going? This is quite unfair because we also depend on these people for our livelihoods.” He did not want to be mentioned, fearing reprisals.

Area MP Nixon Korir said yesterday he plans to meet Tobiko to avert the crisis.

“We are going to explore all avenues including lobbying by seeking the audience with the CS or even the President. We are also looking at legal options,” Korir said.

The legislator also plans to petition Parliament to stop the demolitions.

“The degazettement was done by the late Lotodo who had the same powers as Tobiko. The CS is therefore not right to declare that action illegal yet due process was followed,” he said.

The residents criticized the CS for working at cross-purposes with the Ministry of Lands and the National Land Commission.

“If the KFS has any issue with the said property, the right channel is to forward it to NLC who have powers under the Constitution to investigate and clearly state ownership of the land,” Majimbo said.

For now, the residents remain adamant and determined to safeguard their properties built through many years of sweat.

We may have to file an injunction this week to stop the government from carrying out the order. There are no two ways about it because we followed all the due procedures in acquiring this land,” Maisiba said.

Wekesa is hopeful that the government will see sense and rescind its decision.

We were in a meeting on Saturday to deliberate on the next course of action. We are yet to receive formal communication from KFS at which point we hope to solve this issue amicably,” he said.

 

- mwaniki fm

Waswa Wekesa, a resident at Sunvalley Estate Phase 1 on June 28, 2020
Waswa Wekesa, a resident at Sunvalley Estate Phase 1 on June 28, 2020
Image: ANDREW KASUKU