Demolished houses

A demolished house that had been built on Portland Cement land in Mavoko, Machakos County, on October 17, 2023.

| Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

Demolitions: The red flags that home owners ignored

What you need to know:

  • On Tuesday, bulldozers went after every erect feature of the buildings they were targeting on day five of the demolitions.
  • Some of the affected residents said they got the confidence to go on given the fact that there was a police post nearby.

One of the clearest red flags signalling that the East African Portland Cement (EAPCC) land dwellers would lose their assets emerged in November last year.

It came from the then Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, and it had the words “start moving tonight” in it.

“Do you want me to bow to the few thousands of people, squatters, or do you want me to look at hundreds of thousands of people who I’ll give jobs right here?” questioned Mr Kuria as he spoke on November 8, 2022 at the EAPCC premises.

“I want to tell squatters: I know you are an irresistible force. But in me, you will find an immovable object. I want NYS to start digging trenches right here. No one centimetre of Portland land will be grabbed anymore. If Moses Kuria can’t fix the issue of squatters in Kenya, who will? This will be the end of squatting in our public land,” he said as he built a case for the establishment of an export processing zone in the premises.


A woman wails uncontrollably as her house in East African Portland in Mavoko was being demolished.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

Mr Kuria further warned: “So, I will come here and fence the land that has not been grabbed. I will flatten those structures, my friend. Make no mistake; start moving out. So, rather than me flattening them my way, please I am asking you: start moving tonight.”

On Tuesday, as bulldozers went after every erect feature of the buildings they were targeting on day five of the demolitions, one pastor whose house was a sad rubble mash remembered Mr Kuria’s words. He said they dismissed the message then.

“Tukasema hiyo ni ile kichwa yake mbovu (we thought it was him being crazy again),” Pastor Stanley Machuma told ‘Nation’, his voice betraying the pain he was in. He thought a written notice would come asking them to leave. He was wrong.

Homes on Portland Cement land demolished after Ruto directive on land grabbers

“We asked the police here the other day, ‘You arrest a person or shoot them after telling them to surrender and they refuse. But for us in this property, did you order us to leave and we refused?’ Even if the (property) leaders refused to take the notice, they should have displayed it somewhere,” he said.

Mr Kuria’s warning was among the many red flags the residents overlooked as they constructed houses and continued establishing their dwellings off Mombasa Road.

Another one was the fact that the dwellers had no title deeds — just certificates.

Demolished houses

Demolished houses that were built on Portland Cement land in Mavoko, Machakos County, on October 17, 2023. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

Yusuf Atandi, a businessman, had such a certificate. Confident that it would yield a title deed as he had been promised, he had constructed a house that had cost him an upwards of Sh9 million – courtesy of loans and his savings – and he was planning to move in on October 25. He told ‘Nation’ that he is a naturally sceptical man and so he did due diligence before committing.

“I have never failed to do research. I did, and I saw that it was under (Aimi Ma Lukenya Society); that the shamba belonged to the community, not Portland as they say,” he said.

“We were waiting for titles to come out because there was a single mother title,” added Mr Atandi.

The fact that his sister was already dwelling there and even had a rental house, coupled with the fact that all he could see around were permanent structures and not mere shackles, convinced Mr Atandi to put up an imposing two-floor, five-bedroom structure with a spacious prayer room at the topmost floor.

“It is very heart-breaking that such an investment has just gone down. Surely, was there not a better way we could have had a seat with EAPCC company and agree on how we could have sought this out?” he posed.

Interestingly, he said that two weeks ago, they were called by the management of the Aimi Ma Lukenya Society and were asked to start paying for the titles which he went ahead and did.

“I had already paid cash for the title deed and hopes were high that they would deliver them in the next few days,” said Mr Yusuf.

Forty-nine-year-old James Mwangi, another of the affected dwellers, told the ‘Nation’ that he had bought two plots from Aimi Ma Lukenya after carrying out due diligence in lands offices on a copy of a title deed he had been given.

Portland Cement

Police arrest a man suspected of stealing building material from houses demolished in Athi River, Machakos County, on October 16, 2023.  demolition.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

He wants the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to take responsibility for not acting decisively after realising the title deed was fake.

“It is unfortunate that members of the public continued to be conned for a long time after the DCI office realised the title deed was fake. They ought to take responsibility,” he said.

Yesterday, Mr Yusuf, the other victim, spoke in the company of his brothers. He said his mother fainted when she saw the houses being brought down by the bulldozers.

Portland home demolitions enter fourth day

He said his mother was over the weekend rushed to the hospital and when she was discharged they decided to take her to South B area in Nairobi County.

Asked what made him move to the area, Mr Yusuf said that the land was cheap.

Cheap property was another red flag that the victims of the demolition missed. A brother of one of the victims told ‘Nation’ that there was a time a 50-by-100-feet plot was going for Sh50,000, though it had now risen to almost Sh1 million.

Those we interviewed said that from as far back as 2012, constructions began coming up. By last week when demolitions began, the affected area had a number of hardwares, feeding the booming construction market. There were schools bustling with life. Food kiosks thrived. Chemists and M-Pesa agents were also in the mix.

Some of the affected residents said they got the confidence to go on given the fact that there was a police post nearby and also the fact that some influential politicians were said to be involved.

“I never had doubts because of one thing: there is an AP camp here. Godowns are here. If they say it’s Portland, why haven’t the godowns been torn down? Why haven’t they demolished the companies here whereas they say it’s Portland even on the other side?” posed Mr Yusuf.

With that confidence, dwellers put up formidable structures. Among them was a woman living abroad who had put up a magnificent structure where her children lived.

Her neighbour, who refused to be named, was about to settle. She spoke of a lease which they had been told that it had expired.

“I used to hear that there was a lease that existed, which expired and then the owner took their property. So, those emerged and said it was theirs,” she said.

A contested lease is another red flag the locals appear to have overlooked, until President William Ruto pronounced himself on the matter last week.

Demolished houses

Demolished houses built on Portland Cement land in Mavoko, Machakos County, on October 17, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

On Monday, the homeowners under Aimi Ma Lukenya Society moved to Machakos Environment and Land Court seeking an order to halt the demolitions.

However, the court dashed their hopes for any temporal relief after ordering their lawyers to serve the defendants (EAPCC) in readiness to an inter-party hearing on Thursday.

The society’s chairman Julius Kathungu told ‘Nation’ they had no option but to obey the court directives.

“We are law abiding citizens though aggrieved. We will wait until Thursday,” he said.

The owners also overlooked warnings issued in various forms by EAPCC. We found reports going as far back as 2010 where the leadership of the company issued a caveat.

In a 2010 interview with a local daily, the then EAPCC Managing Director Kephar Tande said: “There are a lot of rumours about the EAPCC land in Athi River and parts of Kajiado County, which might turn out to be a problem to locals and the company. I will, therefore, advise the board of directors against plans to sell the land in order to prevent any problem among locals.”

In 2016, the firm also issued billboards warning against occupation of some parcels.

Yesterday, Land Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome urged caution in land acquisitions, particularly in cases with unresolved issues.


A man watches helplessly as a bulldozer brings down his house in East African Portland land in Mavoko on October 14, 2023.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

“It’s become evident that many Kenyans are quickly purchasing land, even in cases where there are unresolved issues. This impulsive behaviour may stem from a mix of naivety and a cultural inclination to buy land without thoroughly addressing existing questions,” she said during the regional conference on customary tenure rights in Eastern Africa.

Investigations carried out by the ‘Nation’ show that on September 29, 2014, the DCI serving at Mavoko at the time wrote to the government forensic documents examiner to establish the authenticity of a copy of title deed that had been produced by Aimi Ma Lukenya.

“I have examined and compared the questionable signatures with specimens’ signatures. In my opinion the signatures were not made by the same author,” read a government forensic documents examiner report concluding the lands registrar signature on title produced by Aimi Ma Lukenya society was forged.

This is yet another red flag that the DCI overlooked, which snowballed into a major catastrophe that has hit the homeowners.

Reporting by Elvis Ondieki, Nyaboga Kiage, Stanley Ngotho and Mercy Simiyu