At the Cheptiret junction on the Eldoret-Nakuru highway sit the ramshackle buildings of a police post, which, like any such base, is a hive of activity.
The station initially housed more than 30 Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) officers. It became a police base in 2014 when the government transferred the ASTU after locals demanded their removal on claims that they had assaulted Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi.
After a decade of service to residents and travellers, the station is in a deplorable state.
And the reason is even more startling.
The government, the Nation has established, cannot develop the station because of a land ownership battle between a local farmers’ cooperative society and the Ministry of Interior.
“It is painful to see how officers at this station suffer, especially during the rainy season. Their already rotting houses are always flooded. Sometimes the houses leak from underground,” said David Maiyo, a local community leader.
Although the station plays a crucial role in the security of the area, he said, the living conditions have demoralised officers.
Because members of the cooperative society cannot agree among themselves, the government’s plans to buy the land have stalled.
The Cheptiret station is not the only case in Eldoret where police work as 'squatters' – officers at the mercy of private land owners and whose workplace welfare cannot be assured because the government does not own the land they live on.
The situation is the same at the Huruma Police Station on the same highway, about five kilometres from Eldoret.
The Huruma station is on private land and the government cannot embark on any long-term development projects there.
Though the station has been hailed for reducing crime in the densely populated slums of Huruma and Shauri, its state is shabby.
Officers also detain suspects at the Central Police Station, more than five kilometres away and struggling with its own traffic.
“Despite the officers’ good work in the fight against crime in Huruma and Shauri estates, the station has no standard cell to hold suspects,” said Eunice Naliaka, a resident of Huruma.
The private developer who owns the Huruma station land won a court order several months ago to evict the officers.
“It is almost a year since we received an eviction order, but it is ironic that the same police officers we are evicting are the ones to enforce the order,” said Emmanuel Towett, a caretaker of the land, summing up the situation.
Mr Towett, who also hailed the officers for the good work they do, said that the government should engage the owner and reach a purchase agreement.
“My boss has always been ready to sell the property to the government, but the government has been reluctant,” he said.
“As a resident who is a beneficiary of the services of these officers, I will be happy to see them living a decent life when the government buys this property and establishes modern infrastructure for them.”
The owner is a private developer who had hired officers to guard construction materials at the site before it was turned into a full police station with a commander (OCS).
This is the case for more than five newly established police stations in Uasin Gishu County.
A majority of them are squatter stations while some are not receiving development funds from the government.
The Kondoo Police Station sits on no-man’s land, with villagers criss-crossing the unfenced base at will.
Officers have had to improvise, turning two benches made from twigs into a customer desk.
At the report office, there is no barrier between the officers and members of the public, exposing the officers to various forms of attack.
At the Tembelio Police Station in Moiben, there is a tug of war between the area chief and officers, who occupy offices belonging to the chief and hence dislodging the administrator.
Attempts by the chief to prevail upon police to relocate to their plot, which is yet to be developed, have failed.
“How will we move to a maize plantation with no infrastructure?” wondered a senior police officer at the station, who did not want to be named.
“If a complainant comes to lodge a complaint, he will be greeted by ugly bags of sand and a mash of razor wire at the entrance of the police stations,” he said.
He added that police stations and posts are in rented buildings that are usually private homes that are not fit for police operations.
A spot check by the Nation revealed that the conditions of six police stations in Uasin Gishu are extremely poor and lack even basic facilities.
“It is unfortunate that Huruma police lack basic facilities, including modern toilets, restrooms and space for complainants,” Ms Naliaka said.
Uasin Gishu County Police Commander Ayub Gitonga, who admitted that some stations are in a pathetic state, said the government cannot develop the stations as it doesn’t own the land on which they sit.
But he said stakeholders are working together to acquire title deeds for affected police stations and posts so as to give the stations facelifts.
“It is true some of the police stations that you have mentioned here need immediate construction, reconstruction, repair and renovation from a security point of view,” he said.
“However, we need locals and the government to work together by donating land so as to offer appropriate aid that is required to establish a permanent police station.”
He gave the example of the Kesses Police Station, where he said construction was underway after the government and other stakeholders purchased a two-acre plot for the base.
He revealed that some police stations will get a facelift after the national government issued money rebuilding stations, such the Kondoo one.
“Stations like Kondoo will soon get a facelift. There are funds from the national government that are going to be channeled to the construction of Kondoo and other stations that sit on legally acquired land,” Mr Gitonga said.
Mr Gitonga said a majority of the stations with infrastructure problems were established as emergency bases, especially after the 2007-2008 post-election violence and the government has embarked on improving them.
He admitted that there are some stations with no gender desks and child protection units, promising that the issues will be addressed.
He welcomed private developers and local leaders to support the National Police Service so as to improve standards at police stations in the county.
He hailed local leaders who have used money from the National Government Constituency Development Fund to support construction and equip police stations in the county.
Meanwhile, he reassured residents that no police station will be closed as the government is in the business of bringing services closer to the people.
“Residents of Uasin Gishu should not be worried about the closure of some of the affected police stations. No police station will be taken away. Let them support us to serve them well,” Mr Gitonga added.
Security experts believe that poor infrastructure undermines police efficiency and services.