Anxiety in Ruto's strongholds as affordable housing evictions loom

President William Ruto

President William Ruto addresses residents after laying the foundation stone for the construction of an affordable housing project in Pioneer in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, on January 9, 2024.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Fresh evictions are now looming in Trans Nzoia, Kericho and Nakuru Counties, as the government moves to repossess public land.
  • In Trans Nzoia County, more than 5000 residents are facing evictions to pave way for the construction of affordable houses.

In the heart of President William Ruto's Rift Valley political stronghold, a storm is brewing as hundreds of families find themselves on the brink of eviction to pave the way for the government’s Affordable Housing Programme.

Those set to be evicted are from Trans Nzoia, Nakuru and Kericho counties.

Already, over 200 families have been evicted from Pioneer estate in Uasin Gishu County, to make way for the president's pet housing project.

The families were evicted from the houses belonging to the county government, where they had been living for more than 30 years as tenants.

Fresh evictions are now looming in Trans Nzoia, Kericho and Nakuru counties, as the government moves to repossess public land, to facilitate the implementation of key development projects.

This comes days after President Ruto warned private developers who have illegally acquired public land to either surrender it or face eviction, to enable the roll-out of his development agenda in housing, Agriculture and Industrialization.

President Ruto ordered the Ministry of Lands and National Government Administration Officials to coordinate the recovery of all illegally occupied public land for government projects.

In Trans Nzoia County, more than 5000 residents are facing evictions to pave way for the construction of affordable houses.

The residents have been living on 2,700 acres of Kenya Prisons land in Kitale, which the government says was illegally acquired.

Already, the government has erected beacons on the land, ahead of looming evictions, causing panic among residents.

Senator Allan Chesang, a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) legislator, has opposed the evictions and urged President Ruto to rescind the decision as it is likely to affect residents.

Mr Chesang, a close ally of the President, said the affordable housing project in Trans Nzoia would leave 5,000 residents homeless and that it would disrupt the functionality of amenities such as schools and hospitals.

"The projects are likely to disrupt the lives of the people who have established businesses on the land and even buried their loved ones there. I plead with President Ruto to rethink and rescind the decision. We have our hospitals on the land, for example, Cherangany Nursing Home, which serves many people in Trans Nzoia,” Chesang said.

“It is painful that the government that the people of Trans Nzoia County voted in are evicting them from their land. These are people who bought land from other people,” Chesang added.

In Kericho County, hundreds of families that have been occupying Majengo Talai area, in Kericho Town are facing evictions to pave way for the construction of 320 affordable houses units.

The National Youth Service (NYS) have already started demolishing some of the structures, erected illegally in the area, where Phase 1 of the affordable houses will be constructed.

President Ruto is expected to officially launch the cheap housing project in the county soon.

While leading a team to inspect the 4.5-acre land,a week ago, Kericho County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo asked families living in the area to leave ahead of the commencement of the project.

The administrator said demarcation and bush clearing will follow after existing structures at the site have been pulled down.

"It is you, the locals, especially the youth and women, who will benefit from the manual labour during the construction of the houses. I therefore urge you to relocate and pave the way for the construction of the houses," said Mr Kitiyo.

The national government intends to build 10,000 housing units in Kericho County, as promised by the Kenya Kwanza administration.

However, residents have appealed to the government to give them ample time to find places to relocate to before the project is rolled out.

In the neighbouring Nakuru County, residents of Nyamaroto slum, which is sandwiched between Menengai Forest and Ranges View estate, are also facing evictions.

Area residents on Tuesday the Nation that they were living in fear, after reports that the land they have been calling home for years would be repossessed for the construction of affordable houses.

"We have been told to move to allow for the construction of affordable houses. We don't know what to do because we have been living here for the past many years," said Mary Mbugua, a resident of the informal settlement area popularly known as Gichagi.

Experts have cited land grabbing and land disputes as potential threats that could derail the project to provide Kenyans with cheap houses.

"The government will have to deal with land grabbers and resolve land disputes first. The Ministry of Lands has a lot of work to do to ensure that these cases don't derail President Ruto’s ambitious development agenda for the people of Kenya,” Mr David Kimani, a governance expert, told the Nation in a previous interview.

Some of the counties where parcels of land meant for the affordable housing projects have had disputes include Kericho, Nakuru and Narok.

Other challenges are huge tracts of government land that do not have title deeds with the majority of the public land being illegally owned by individuals.

“Land litigation in court is one of the potential setbacks to the realisation of the affordable housing projects at the county levels. The national and county governments must seek alternative methods to resolve most of the cases out of court to enable the projects to take off,” lawyer Steve Kabita told the Nation.