End land impunity

What you need to know:

  • The latest round of demolitions has occurred in Nakuru, where properties worth millions of shillings were flattened, leaving 3,000 traders in dire straits.
  • The buildings had been constructed on land belonging to the Kenya Railways Corporation.

Encroachment on public land is a common illegal practice that, eventually, needlessly causes a lot of pain for the beneficiaries. Some who have been lured by con men into paying for the illegally allocated land end up being evicted and losing their money.

This happened recently to the people who had bought and built homes on land set aside in Nairobi for the expansion of the city sewerage plant. They produced documents to prove ownership but the officials remained firm and repossessed it.

The latest round of demolitions has occurred in Nakuru, where properties worth millions of shillings were flattened, leaving 3,000 traders in dire straits. The buildings had been constructed on land belonging to the Kenya Railways Corporation. Incidentally, most of the illegally occupied land belongs to this parastatal. When it was moribund in recent years, speculators and other people acquired railway land in Nairobi, Mombasa and all the major towns, including Nakuru. But some had genuine short-term leases.

However, as railway infrastructure is being revamped, with the building of the SGR and other lines, the squatters must give way and at a huge loss and personal cost. The Nakuru demolitions are meant to pave the way for the rehabilitation of the Nairobi-Nakuru-Kisumu medium-meter gauge railway and the expansion of the Limuru-Nakuru highway. As the Swahili say, if you see your friend being shaved, that is the time to wet your own hair to avoid the pain of a dry shave. Squatters on public land should realise that their days are numbered. The sooner they find alternatives the better.

However, it is a pity that officials involved in the land excisions and leases, or those who were content to just watch as the vice unfolded, are never punished for their indiscretions. To deter impunity, all the culprits must be held to account for their roles in the illegalities or failure to stop them yet they could.