State, Orbit Chemicals strike deal to stop Mukuru Kwa Njenga evictions

Mukuru demolitions

Demolished houses at Mukuru-Fuata Nyayo slums in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Sammy Kimatu | Nation Media Group

Mukuru Kwa Njenga residents will no longer live in fear of evictions and demolitions after the private owner of the disputed land housing thousands of houses agreed to a deal brokered by the government.

This comes as a major relief to the residents whose houses were flattened in November last year and were forced to live in makeshift tents.  

The deal brokered by Cabinet secretaries Fred Matiang’i (Interior), Farida Karoney (Lands) and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki and Orbit Chemicals, will see the owners of demolished structures allowed to keep them and eventually own plots.

The directors of Orbit Chemicals Limited also agreed to expedite the regularisation of ownership and the issuance of title deeds to the structure owners.

132 plots

With this deal, the government will waive millions of shillings in taxes and applicable fees and provide free survey services on priority basis to facilitate transfer of ownership.

 “We are now building our houses after receiving orders from the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Director-General Mohamed Badi and Interior CS, Fred Matiang’i. We are encouraging everyone to construct and fill this entire space as we wait for the regularisation process,” Mr Eric Ambuche, a resident of Kwa Njenga and the founder of the Slums Outreach Programme told Nation.Africa

The land in question has already been subdivided into 132 plots, ten of which have been reserved for public utilities including schools, police station, churches and a mosque. Twenty-five acres have also been set aside for access roads in a slum upgrading scheme under the NMS.

Of the remaining plots, 626 have already been purchased by structure owners with 456 among them effectively transferred to new owners.

The new arrangement will focus on the balance of 703 plots that are still owned by the private firm.

Fanning wrangles

The government has already deployed its surveyors to fast-track the process after it ordered private ones who were accused of fanning wrangles in the disputed land, out of the area.

Residents had also complained that some politicians and opportunists had infiltrated the land dispute, a claim that prompted the government to fast track the negotiations with Orbit Chemicals.

Among the tactics used by the troublemakers was sponsoring invasions by outsiders with a promise of giving them free land.

So serious were the issues that last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the cessation of evictions in the informal settlement and the immediate resettlement of victims who had been evicted on Christmas Day.

On January 6, while meeting elders from the informal settlement, Dr Matiang’i promised to expedite negotiations with Orbit Chemicals to put an end to incessant fights over the land.

Several security officers, including Embakasi Sub County Police Commander, have been sent on compulsory leave and others transferred over the evictions as the government strives to balance the respect for private property and humanitarian considerations of hundreds of residents affected by the evictions.

“We respect court orders, but we will implement them in a framework that also respects the interests of the people we serve. We have called some of our officers to account,” Dr Matiang’i said.

During that meeting, Ms Karoney said an audit of the title deeds held by the residents will be undertaken to regularise land tenure and informal property holdings in the area.

Modern housing

In August, 2017, the Nairobi County government declared the Mukuru informal settlement a Special Planning Area (SPA) and approved an Integrated Development Plan on infrastructural facelift to improve access to water and sanitation services, modern housing, and electricity connectivity.

The upgrading of 70 kilometers of roads to cabro and bitumen, construction of a 24-bed Level 3 hospital in Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Mukuru Kayaba, construction of 15,000 housing units under the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme and the issuance of 1,329 title deeds was to be undertaken under the programme.

The plan was also to extend to the drilling of 10 boreholes and introduction of a water token system to reduce the cost of water but its implementation has been slowed down by controversies of land ownership and settlements.

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