Going, going, gone: The gradual death of Kisumu Railway Estate

Dilapidated buildings at the Railway staff quarters in Kisumu . PHOTO|TOM OTIENO

What you need to know:

  • Sandwiched between two of the town’s biggest shopping malls, the estate has weathered the storms for over 50 years.

  • Today, however, the effects of age are catching up with the project. The houses are rundown and open sewers dot its surroundings. Its once white walls are now earth-brown, thanks to mud and dust collected over the years.  The roofs are crumbling.

  • Matters have further been worsened by the inability of the county government to repossess the project and renovate it.

The Kisumu railway estate, which has in the recent past offered accommodation to those seeking cheap housing in the lakeside city, is a pale shadow of its former self.

The estate is a mirror of a neglected and abandoned project that once housed Kisumu’s well-heeled. Land belonging to the corporation has not been spared either as rival gangs in the city scramble to have a piece of the strategically located private property. 

Located within the Kisumu central business district, the estate now provides solace to a majority of residents seeking cheap housing.

Ms Everline Njeri and her husband are a perfect example. The couple moved to Kisumu from their rural home in Central Kenya in 2003, and have now found comfort at the estate, which they consider a perfect home.

Despite the minimal amenities that include sharing of bathrooms and latrines, Mrs Njeri says the peace and tranquillity it offers compares to no other estate in the town, especially for a person of her class.

“We are at peace here, both with our neighbours and landlords. The place is also closer to the town centre, thus we don’t incur any transport costs,” she told DN2.

The estates were built by the colonial government during the construction of the railway line to Nakuru. According to inscriptions on some of the walls, most of the houses date back to 1901, with the newest being built in 1910.

Sandwiched between two of the town’s biggest shopping malls, the estate has weathered the storms for over 50 years.

EFFECTS OF AGE CATHCING UP

Today, however, the effects of age are catching up with the project. The houses are rundown and open sewers dot its surroundings. Its once white walls are now earth-brown, thanks to mud and dust collected over the years.  The roofs are crumbling.

Matters have further been worsened by the inability of the county government to repossess the project and renovate it. Governor Jack Ranguma last week told DN2  that renovating the expansive estate was beyond his mandate.

“The property belongs to the national government and as such the county has no mandate of initiating any works on the property,” said the governor.

Mr Ranguma said the expansive land can only be used when the two levels of government agree on the modalities of use, as well as of sharing of proceeds.

“They should allow us to put up hotels that reflect the true image of Kisumu as an emerging destination for conferencing and business tourism on the land,” the governor said.

He noted that part of conversations the county was having with Kenya Ports Authority on the use of the Kisumu port included how to transform the area.

“We hope that they (KR and KPA) will slowly buy our concerns of how this eyesore is locking the potential of Kisumu city,” said Mr Ranguma.

Joshua Kipkut, a businessman who relocated here from Malaba in 2013, told DN2 that the houses have never been refurbished, or even repaired, for years, if not decades.

Interviews with various tenants revealed that most of the houses have since been subdivided further by owners who worked at the railway station.

This, they say, is to ensure maximum profits from the otherwise small rooms now created by the house owners. Tenants pay rent ranging from  Sh2,000 to Sh5,000.

 

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