A section of residents of Mathira West sub-county in Nyeri County, whose land and property was acquired to pave way for the construction of the 84km Kenol–Marua dual carriageway on Friday staged a demonstration, protesting delayed compensation by government.
The residents, who marched through the highway that is under construction with placards demanding to be paid, also hurled insults at the workers on the road forcing the Chinese contractor to hurriedly withdraw equipment for fear of being destroyed by the irate residents
The normal flow of traffic on the busy Karatina -Nyeri section was also interrupted as the noisy placard waving protestors marched to the local Deputy County commissioner’s (DCC) office to air their grievances.
The land pay row is likely to delay the completion of this particular section of the road as the more than 500 families on the Tegu – Marua section who are affected by the construction told Mathira West DCC to his face that they will not relent and will continue disrupting work on the highway until their grievances are met.
“Pay our money. You have destroyed our land and our home homes but have not paid us. Where shall we sleep and work,” exclaimed the protestors.
One of the victims Ms Ann Mahinge said the walls of her family’s stone house have developed cracks owing to the heavy compacting machines and they are afraid of residing fearing it could collapse. .
“I am so worried now because living in a house with such cracks is very dangerous, it started as a small crack but as a result of the impact of the machines on the road, it is now very wide and I fear for the safety of my family. These people have been giving us empty promises, they have visited my home and taken pictures of the cracked walls but nothing has happened yet, it is a life threatening situation” she said
A spokesperson for the affected families Mr Githinji Gitehi said they have been pushing for compensation through the relevant authorities when the road was being surveyed, and they were issued with award letters but nothing is forthcoming.
“The Chinese contractor is being paid promptly but the property owners are getting nothing. All we want is compensation, we are tired of empty promises. We are saying enough is enough, let the contractor know that we shall not allow the work to continue until we are compensated,” he said.
Another claimant Ms Rose Nyambura complained that her farm has been destroyed by flood water from the highway and her coffee valued at hundreds of thousand destroyed.
“We have been taken round in circles for a long time attending many meetings that have so far yielded nothing we have decided to demonstration so that the government can come to our , we are especially appealing to the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who hails from this area to intervene” she said
The protest march did not end without some drama as the angry villagers amid some murmurs of disapproval became hostile and declined to be “greeted” by the Kenya National Highway Authority resident Engineer George Wandera who was being introduced to them by the DCC.
However, while addressing the demonstrators outside his office, the Mathira East DCC Mr Anthony Macharia said he had been personally pursuing the matter assuring them that the national government is doing “everything possible” to ensure they get their dues without further delay.
“First let me commend you for holding a peaceful demonstration without causing any commotion with my officers. Let me also assure you that I have taken up the matter with the those involved, I have been discussing this matter with the Deputy President and the local MP, we are trying our best to ensure there is no further delay in paying you what is rightfully yours “ he said.