Nyeri residents get rude shock after invading govt land 'promised by Gachagua'

Kenya Railways

Karatina Railways grounds on August 17, 2022. About 100 people attempted to invade the land owned by Kenya Railways but were repulsed by police.

Photo credit: Stephen Munyiri | Nation Media Group

Police in Karatina, Nyeri County, on Tuesday thwarted an attempt by a group of people to occupy a piece of land owned by Kenya Railways Corporation.

This is the same site, off the Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line, from which second-hand clothes traders were evicted two years ago.

The group claimed that Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua had promised to settle them there once William Ruto took over power.

But the local police boss warned that lawlessness would not be entertained, saying the invaders would be dealt with.

He said the land belongs to the government and not an individual.

On Tuesday morning, a day after Dr Ruto and Mr Gachagua were announced winners of the presidential election, a group of about 100 people shouting “freedom is coming” invaded the open space and tried to demarcate it by erecting beacons.

'Once our President is sworn in'

Kenya Railways police swung into action and repulsed them.

They fled, shouting, “We will return once our President is sworn in”.

One of the invaders, who spoke to Nation.Africa on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they were merely responding to the election pledges of the former Mathira MP, who had promised to resettle them there once Dr Ruto became President.

Not broken any law

“We have not broken any law. Mr Gachagua assured us that once they formed the government, this issue would be revisited. Now that they have won, I hope he will keep that promise,” he said.

But Mathira East sub-county Police Commander Benjamin Rotich cautioned residents against taking the law into their own hands.

“It is true some people tried to invade the railway reserve. When people were celebrating after the declaration of winners, we didn’t know they were celebrating to invade the land. But they are forgetting that there is a government in place and the land does not belong to anybody but is government property,” he said.

“Even if it was private property, there is a legal way to go about it and if they want to conduct business there, let them approach Kenya Railways and have a lease agreement. You don’t wake up one morning and take other people’s property and we will not allow this to happen.”

In 2020, Kenya Railways forcibly evicted more than 2,000 traders from the reserve land.

This was meant to facilitate the rehabilitation of the railway line, which is now operational. The space has since been fenced off.

The eviction turned political when Mr Gachagua described it as politically instigated.

Addressing the traders at the site, Mr Gachagua alluded to some “powers” that he claimed intended to undermine him politically.

Outgoing Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina also came to the defence of the traders and urged the traders to stay put.

After the eviction, Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, who was re-elected last week, relocated the traders to another site in Karatina.