End of an era as Kisumu's iconic Lumumba estate is flattened

Lumumba estate

Some of the houses at Kisumu's Lumumba estate which has since been flattened.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The neighbourhood was named after slain DRC Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
  • Until 2020, tenants used to pay Sh2,000 per month for the two-bedroomed units.

Curtains have finally fallen on one of Kisumu City’s oldest and iconic residential neighbourhoods, after bulldozers descended on the estate and flattened it.

The heavy machines left behind piles of red bricks, bringing to a dusty end 63 years of the estate’s existence.

The neighbourhood was named after slain Democratic Republic of Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, who was assassinated in 1961.

Lumumba is the third historic estate in Kisumu after Makasembo and Anderson to succumb to the pressure of urban regeneration.

For the better part of last week, tenants, some of whom had lived in the estate for decades, began removing windows, doors and asbestos roofing from the houses in the estate that once housed prominent people in pre and post-colonial Kenya.

Kenya’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Kenyatta-era minister Tom Mboya grew up in Kaloleni, which is next to Lumumba and was occupied mostly by the Nubian community.

For John Odenyo, whose family moved into Lumumba estate in the early 1960s, the demolition of what he has always called home leaves a mixture of feelings.

“The whole estate had become one big family and our joy, happiness and sadness were shared as we were always there for each other,” said Mr Odenyo.

Affordable housing

Tenants used to pay Sh2,000 per month for the two-bedroomed units. This was until 2020 when the rent was increased to Sh4,000.

The 100 units had a sitting room, two bedrooms, kitchen, a bathroom and a toilet.

Mr Odenyo recalled how they fought hard to have the estate spared from demolition through a petition at the Senate.

Their attempts, however, did not bear fruit. They then gave up on fighting for their homes.

Mr Odenyo, who was the secretary of the Lumumba Residents Association, had, together with some tenants, raised concerns over the compensation that they were to be given, saying, it was too little.

Word had gone around that they would be awarded Sh12,000 each. This was increased to sh24,000.

He hopes they will be given the priority to occupy the new houses which are to be built on the land.

On August 4 last year, the Ministry of Lands, Public Works Housing and Urban Development published an advertisement for tenders for the construction of affordable housing units across the country, among them the proposed Lumumba Housing Project.

Deplorable state

Mr Fredrick Onyango, Kisumu County Director of Housing said the first phase is set to commence in this financial year 2023/24 and targets 480 units.

Some tenants and residents had hoped that the estate should have been refurbished and preserved as a cultural heritage.

The construction of Makasembo, which is being undertaken by the Local Authorities Provident Fund, is going on in earnest.

Nearly all of the council housing estates were named after prominent personalities and have been homes to generation after generation, especially those who worked in either local and national governments.

They had fallen to deplorable states due to lack of proper maintenance.

Recently, the County government of Kisumu kick-started a search for investors who would help in the management of the estates.

Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga in an Expression of Interest (EOI) published in the Daily Nation dated December 14, 2022, called on consultants to guide on the management of the houses.

The consultancy services included advisory on scoping, value retention and extraction, an operational review of income-generating housing assets, and investment management.