KU protests construction of WHO hub on 200-acre land

Varsity says it wants to build student hostels there, but the hospital has already acquired it to build the hub

In Summary

•KUTRRH chairperson Prof Olive Mugenda did not immediately confirm how much land the hospital is taking over.

• President Uhuru will visit the hospital on Saturday to launch several facilities including a WHO hub at the contentious land.

An NYS bulldozer flattens ground at the land in Kenyatta University on Wednesday
An NYS bulldozer flattens ground at the land in Kenyatta University on Wednesday

Kenyatta University has complained that a World Health Organization hub is being built on the institution's land without their permission.

The WHO emergency hub, which will be commissioned by President Uhuru Kenya on Saturday, will sit on a small part of the bushy 200 acres that the university owns.

KU Vice-Chancellor Prof Paul Wainaina said the land belongs to the university and was already earmarked for development projects.

Prof Wainaina said that the university was already planning to build a business school, whose construction has stalled, a recreation centre for students and hostels. 

"We want to reduce the number of students staying off-campus who are exposed to crime and even death and provide accommodation for them. The taking of our land for other purposes is not in the interest of our students or the university,” he said.

In a statement, Prof Wainaina said the NYS servicemen currently preparing the ground for Saturday’s groundbreaking “invaded” the KU land at around 1 am on Tuesday morning without identifying themselves.

He said the servicemen accessed the land through the gate of the nearby Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital.

"They overwhelmed our security team and proceeded to demolish the temporary perimeter fences and other structures on the land," he said. 

"They also brought in an excavator and bulldozer and in the morning the group proceeded to clear the land. I have not been informed by anyone what the activity on KU land is about." 

In his statement, Prof Wainaina said the university is not opposed to any project, but the management at least needs to be informed. 

"We are not opposed to the project that is being rumoured to be done on the land but the proper procedure and process must be followed," he said.

"The land in question has been earmarked for a children’s hospital to our knowledge. I am not aware of any other project nor have I been informed on the same by anyone."

The WHO hub was previously housed inside KUTRRH, which is said to have received government approvals to acquire the KU land and transfer the hub there.

The entire land measures 200 acres but it is not clear how much has been taken over.

On Friday, KUTRRH sent a statement announcing President Uhuru, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and hospital chairperson Prof Olive Mugenda will visit the hospital on Saturday to launch several facilities.

“Additionally, the event will also see the launch of the WHO emergency hub offices as well as the groundbreaking on their new site,” the statement from KUTRRH said.

The contentious land is situated between the hospital and the university’s schools of economics and the school of engineering.

It is bushy with several derelict buildings that appear to have been abandoned at the foundation decades ago. 

There is a tarmac road joining the two institutions but is not open to the public because of stiff security on both ends.

The Star visited the site on Wednesday and found about 50 NYS recruits clearing the ground with slashers and two bulldozers.

The Star sought comment from KUTRRH chairperson Prof Olive Mugenda about the stand-off, but she did not respond immediately.

Earlier, she had told the Standard, “All land belongs to the government and it's not owned by anybody."

Despite sharing a name and land, the two institutions are officially separate entities and do not see eye to eye. 

For instance, medical students from KU do not train at the referral hospital. 

“We are forced to send students to Mama Lucy Hospital, Kiambu, Thika and Mathari,” a lecturer told the Star.

KUTRRH was founded by the university ten years ago.

However, the President gazetted the hospital as a parastatal under the Ministry of Health on January 25, 2019.

Treasury CS Ukur Yatani explained this was because KU defaulted on a Sh10 billion loan that the State borrowed from Export-Import Bank (Exim) of China on behalf of the university to build the hospital.

In total, the university sits on 1,000-acre land, some of which was taken by the hospital during construction.

(Edited by Tabnacha O)

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