Where are our new houses? Nairobi evictees ask as project stalls

Kenya Railways Corporation

Unfinished houses that the Kenya Railways Corporation is building for railway land evictees in Jamhuri, Nairobi, in March last year. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

They were promised spanking new modern apartments in the Ng’ando area of Nairobi’s Jamhuri Estate, a significant upgrade on their ramshackle shanties in Soweto, Laini Saba and Mashimoni in the sprawling Kibera and Mukuru informal settlements.

All they had to do was relocate from a strip of land belonging to the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC). But the dream of a happily-ever-after for the evictees, known in technical parlance as project-affected persons (PAPs), remains deferred close to a decade later and they are now appealing to the State agency to honour its pledge to give them alternative homes.

The 560 families, through their chairperson, Mr Peter Kinyua, have petitioned Parliament, asking it to compel KRC to stick to its end of the bargain.

They said they were told the project would take eight months to be complete but it is now eight years and counting. Despite fulfilling all conditions set by KRC and the World Bank (the financier of the project) such as forming Ng’ando PAPs Housing Cooperative Society Limited, paying the Sh2,500 for Sacco membership as well as for water and electricity connection and even balloting for the housing units, they are yet to be resettled.

Mr Kinyua said the project comprised building more than 600 fit-for-purpose residential and business units into which the evictees were to move from the temporary structures they had been relocated to.

He pointed out that only 100 units are complete save for the sewerage line, 300 units are incomplete and in a state of disrepair while 200 others are yet to take off.

“After being screened and issued with ballots for our units, we were supposed to get our houses eight years ago,” Mr Kinyua told Nation.

Mr Kinyua said their continued stay in temporary structures is now becoming untenable as they had demolished their previous homes after they were promised alternative housing in the new project.

He lamented that most of the would-be beneficiaries are living in deplorable conditions as the project continues to delay. Their temporary settlement, he said, has no latrines or running water, posing health risks.

“Most of us are desperately poor and are living from hand to mouth,” he said.

He said KRC insists it has not yet received funds from the government to facilitate the completion of the project but continues sending them reminders to comply with rental payments for the stalled units.

In their petition to Parliament, they want the MPs to compel President William Ruto’s government to have the project factored into the ongoing affordable housing programme and have funds allocated for its completion.

They also want the lawmakers to force KRC to settle the intended beneficiaries, as per the agreement at the inception of the project.

“The reason for the delay, as we have been made to understand, is that the government has not fulfilled its financial obligation whereas the World Bank has done its part,” he said.

The project, according to documents seen by Nation, is part of the relocation action plan by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and KRC with the World Bank as the financier.

The objective of the project was to relocate squatters living on railway land whose continued stay posed a safety risk to train operations.

The plan was aimed at providing a 40-metre wide corridor between Bunyala Road bridge through Nyayo Stadium, Madaraka, Soweto East, Laini Saba to Mashimoni.

The project was to put up 9,005 units for relocating PAPs between 2013 and 2015.

“This government is busy launching low-income housing projects while our houses remain unfinished and are falling into disrepair. Why can’t they finish this project first seeing as it will cost less money?” Mr Kinyua posed.