, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 18 – Chaos broke out at the Globe Cinema roundabout on Monday morning, when mechanics operating at a disputed plot on Kirinyaga Road clashed with some hired youths.
The mechanics and other traders who have been operating their businesses at the grounds for more than two decades said they woke up to find hired goons manning the grounds, prompting a confrontation.
It was the third time in two months that the mechanics were involved in skirmishes over the plot.
“We came here in the morning and found a group of youths armed with bows and arrows. They told us they were under instructions not to let us in. That is when we regrouped and chased them away,” electrician Michael Okelo said.
“It was chaotic, we fought for close to half an hour before police intervened and shot in the air to disperse us. That is when they left and we came in,” he added.
No major casualty was reported but police said that some of the mechanics sustained bruises and minor cuts.
“We acted fast. It could have been worse because one of the groups was armed with arrows. There are no major casualties,” Central divisional police chief Tito Kilonzi, who led the anti-riot squad said.
Mr Kilonzi said they had ‘resolved to let the mechanics go on with their businesses on condition that they do not engage in violence’.
“As long as they are not disrupting other businesses and stoning motorists at the round about, we have no problem with them,” he said.
“Our officers will remain here on standby and will only intervene if there is a problem,” said the police chief.
The mechanics spent the better part of Monday clearing the grounds and covering trenches dug by bulldozers on Sunday night.
“The developer who is trying to reclaim this land does not want us here. He has even hired people to dig trenches so that our customers cannot access the grounds with their vehicles,” another trader, Duke Mwaniki said.
On Thursday, the mechanics engaged police in running battles when they found the grounds fenced off and opted to avenge their anger on motorists at the Globe Cinema roundabout.
They even set ablaze a police truck and damaged property of an unknown value.
One of the mechanics, John Wainaina, 44, was shot and seriously injured during the Thursday chaos, and then arrested soon after he was discharged from hospital.
Police said they would charge him jointly with other suspects arrested on that day for robbery and malicious damage of property, which includes the police truck that was burnt down.
On Saturday, Lawyer Paul Muite toured the disputed land and urged the mechanics and other traders there to stay put ‘because they are bonafide owners of the plot’.
Citing land laws, which govern the mode of reclaiming land, Mr Muite told the mechanics they were justified to continue occupying the land ‘because the owner had failed to reclaim it within the 12 year-period provided by the law’.
“According to the law, if you fail to move to court to attain an eviction order within 12 years, that is called adverse possession. It allows those who have been occupying the land to go to court and petition to get the title to the land,” he said while addressing the mechanics at the controversial plot.
The former legislator said that Jamia mosque was to blame for failing to gather enough information on the ownership history prior to the purchase.
“It was their (Jamia Mosque) responsibility to inquire from the seller who the mechanics were and whether he had given them an eviction order,” he said.
Jamia Mosque Committee claims to have bought the five-acre-plot for a sum of Sh123 million from previous owners – the Hebattulas family.