Friday, December 01, 2006

Mugabe-nomics in Kenya

Yet another example of NARC's commitment to alleviating poverty. According to the Standard, the government has committed to the demolition of buildings and businesses worth Kshs. 5 billion at Mlolongo township to make way for the expansion of the Nairobi/Mombasa highway. This brings back disturbing memories of the 2004 demolitions which were to pave the way for the now fictitious bypasses. I wonder how destroying livelihoods improves the lot of Kenyans.

The fact is unscrupulous people have "grabbed" the road reserves and either developed or sold them to other unsuspecting investors. The government, under Moi, was largely complicit in this orgy of looting. The way to correct this state of affairs should not be Mugabe-style land redistribution. Considering the amount of money that has already been invested, the number of jobs that this investment has created and the fact that many of the affected investors are twice or even thrice removed from the original illegality (the owners of one demolished petrol station valued at Kshs. 70 million and employing 30 bought the land from the NSSF), the government should have approached this matter in a different way.

In Nairobi, buildings worth billions of shillings were reduced to rubble to implement plans that were over 30 years old. Estates like Runda did not exist when those plans were drawn up. Wouldn't it have made more sense to redraft the plans to take account of the "facts on ground" and then go after the individuals who grabbed the land in the first place? We could attach their assets as compensation instead of punishing innocents.

Similarly, the bulldozers at Mlolongo should never have been dispatched before alternative routes for the road were considered. And I have seen no evidence that that happened. Neither have I heard talk of compensation or plans to address the inevitable suffering this will cause. And all this from the very people who were shedding crocodile tears over Mo1's kiosk demolitions.


Anonymous said...

You are kidding, right?

Alternative routes for the roads?

Leave buildings that are standing on (grabbed) public land intact and spend more time and money looking for an alternative route instead?

Comparing Mugabe who removed citizens for public land in the name of beautification to a Kenyan administration that is removing buildings

i) erected illegally on
i) illegally aquired public land that also happens to be
iii) a road reserve that also happens to be
iv) needed for road expansion like RIGHT NOW (who does not know that something needs to be done about the Mombasa - Nairobi road situation?)

seems facetious to me.

But, I could be wrong.

The folks who stole this public land might just be undergoing unfair persecution from a government that is taking it back for its proper purpose (and not charging them in court to boot. How unfair.)


jm said...

1)if you buy a stolen car - let's assume unknowingly - and after you have enjoyed its services, you are then informed that the car was stolen and has to be given back ... would you feel aggrieved at whoever sold it to you, or whoever is reposseing it, even if they are reposessing it to cut out the metal and make toys for kids ...???

2)I echo Steve on the alternative route point ...

3)It will be unfortunate if the highway isn't actually built but it will be.

4)Who was the chief architect of the "bypass demolition" job ??

Gathara said...

Steve and Mwangi,
In many cases, the guys who own the land now are not the ones who stole it in the first place. I am not condoning the grabbing. All I'm saying is that we should take care not to punish the innocent together with the guilty.

Secondly, we cannot turn back time. What's happened has happened. We deal with the reality as it is, not as we would like it to be. And the reality is people have invested in these buildings, jobs have been created, livelihoods earned. That does not excuse the illegality (as I said, we can always arrest the guilty and appropriate their property). But it does mean that we need to be intelligent in how we approach the issue.

Oh, and Mwangi, this has nothing to do with the ODM/NARC-K politics you seem so fixated on. It is immaterial if it was Raila who was in charge of the demolitions. He did have the public backing of his then boss after all.

pesa tu said...

The plan was set out way back in the 70s.Unfortunately ,people acquired and built on the land.

If gvt. allowed them to stay, it would have set a dangerous precedent.
No public project would ever have taken off(Remember 90% of land set aside for Roads,airports,schools etc has squatters)

Had the courts given them an injunction.They would be swamped next week with tens of similar cases.

jm said...

You cannot have your cake and eat it!

Anonymous said...

You 'll don know what u talking abt...especially Mwangi who i presume u make ur un-courthd comments in the comfort of ur air conditioned apartment in maryland.....
nothing can justfy demolishing houses worth millons of shillings in a developing country...Now lemmie ask u raila demolished houses worth millions in karen n other estates saying roads resrves n shit....aint a single road hav been built or extensions...
i think Gathara makes alot of snse get surveyers to redesign the roads again...then follow those grabbers and they either pay at the current market trends or govt takes then back....they can urn then to clinics,children homes or wharever noting and i mean nothing justifys demolishing houses in kenya....