Pain as homes are flattened in Athi River

Monday, October 16th, 2023 06:00 | By
Pain as homes are flattened in Athi River
A victim of the ongoing demolitions reacts moments after her home was flattened by bulldozers. PHOTO/ christine musa

The ongoing Athi-river demolitions which enter day four today have left a trail of destruction after property worth millions was brought down by bulldozers.

 Pain, agony, tears, anguish and confusion is evident among hundreds of squatters and tens of palatial home owners residing in the area popularly known as County.

 The unusual vibrant settlements have partly been reduced to rubbles and total darkness since power has been disconnected. The shopping centre which ordinarily is characterised by lucrative business now remains deserted.

 Helpless families have been left in the cold with most of them thronging to already occupied slums.

 School going children have been forced to cut short their education as families figure out where to get new shelter.  The three private schools which have already been brought down had a population of approximately 600 learners.

 Several mega churches, business premises, rental houses and health centres have already been reduced to rubbles to the chagrin of suffering locals.

 The hopeless victims further decry lack of issuance of a notice to vacate saying the demolitions caught them unaware making it difficult to salvage essential household items.

 Victims say they have incurred heavy losses as criminal gangs have taken the area by storm stealing the salvageble items despite the presence of a heavy contingent of armed GSU officers. They say the security officers are only focused on ensuring orderly demolition and guarding bulldozers operators while insecurity is getting rampant.

 “Criminals are racing against time to steal any available item as we watch. The criminals pretend to be spectators who are coming to witness the demolitions,” said Ann Munyao, a victim.

 She claims to have lost all her scrap iron sheets and household items in broad daylight.

 “It is a sad end for me and my family because we have lived here for nine years. I was previously a squatter at Athi-River slums and we settled here after Portland allowed us, hoping we will be legally settled since mining activities ended and the land belongs to a government entity,” narrated Musa Mbiuki, a resident.

  On Monday (October 9, 2023) the Machakos land and environment court  ruled that the disputed 4,268 acre piece of land which has approximately over 5,000 settlements is owned by East Africa Portland Cement Company.

 The cement manufacturer finished Pozzolana mining activities in the area before squatters drawn from the surrounding Kasoito, Slaughter, Kwa Mang’eli and City Cotton slums settled on the land in 2010.

 “I used to reside here at Kwa Mang’eli slum. After my house was demolished and I was left in the cold with my four children, I came here hoping to get some space just to erect a polythene paper to house use but the area is already full to capacity. I am stranded,” said Joyce Mwende.

  According to the victims, the government through the ministry of land had severally promised to legally settle them.

Massive destruction

 The squatters argue that they should have been served with a court order to vacate instead of massive destruction of property.

  Ukambani leaders have condemned the ongoing demolitions saying it is a plan by the government to grab the land and impoverish natives who have been residing at the land as squatters.

 Ukambani leaders were on Saturday forced to scamper for safety after their address to locals was cut short by irate GSU officers overseeing the demolitions.

 Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, governor Wavinya Ndeti, MPs Patrick Makau (Mavoko), Robert Mbui (Kathiani), Stephen Mule(Matungulu) and Machakos Woman MP Joyce Kamene condemned the demolitions saying that government ought to have used humane mode to resolve the matter.

 “Every Kenyan is entitled to shelter according to the Kenya constitution. This move is barbaric and acceptable,’’said Kalonzo.

 “It is a sad day for the Kamba Nation. We as leaders had a dialogue with the president over the matter but unfortunately families have been destabilised. I am annoyed and disappointed with this government.  They campaigned on the basis of uplifting the needy but now oppressing the least fortunate can barely afford a meal, “Wavinya said.

 She vowed that as Kamba they will use all possible avenues to ensure the land is not taken from the natives.

 “That land does not belong to Portland cement. The land was communal before it was leased to the cement manufacturer, the lease expired and raw materials depleted. The land ought to have been reverted back to the community,” Wavinya vowed.

 “How come the GSU officers are denying us as leaders a chance to supply humanitarian aid to those who have been forcibly evicted. As leaders, we have been chased away and denied a chance to address locals in what the officers say are orders from above. How can the government demolish existing homes while advocating for affordable houses? Despite the court ruling, the government would have resorted to better ways of resolving the matter,”Makau said.

They urged president William Ruto to order the demolitions stopped.

“I would like to call on the international community to intervene on this matter because this is a humanitarian crisis. It is unfortunate that a government which is meant to protect its people is oppressing them,” Mbui said.

President Ruto is on record praising the court for making the ruling while speaking at EPZA when he opened a pharmaceutical company.

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