, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 20 – The government was on Wednesday reading from different scripts on the planned compulsory land acquisition on Mombasa Road and Waiyaki Way, meant to pave way for road expansion.
At a joint press conference at Ardhi House, Lands Minister James Orengo and his Roads counterpart Franklin Bett contradicted Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua who had earlier in the day said that the move had been shelved.
Mr Bett explained that the concessionaire, who was contracted to expand the road, had proposed that the buildings be demolished to pave way for the construction of a larger highway.
"We simply wanted to resolve the problem of traffic movement on the road and that we intend to continue because it is the wish of every Kenyan including the complaints to have roads that can easily move goods and services," he said.
On his part, Mr Orengo added that the plans to acquire the land still stood although the demolition orders had not been issued. He also accused business owners on the targeted areas of being devious claiming that they deliberately brought up their buildings on the road reserve.
"There is some element of mischief because it cannot be a coincidence. In fact in respect to some of these pieces of land, the landlords had a large expanse of the land at the back of the plot but still decided to build next to the road," he said.
Mr Bett further claimed that none of the buildings targeted in the demolition had been constructed when the government surveyed the said land for road expansion.
"That land was empty; there was no building at all as we were planning. Maybe Wikileaks took place (sic) and people got wind of the acquisition and someone rushed in and started building on the portion that had been earmarked for the expansion," he said.
"For us really the issue is the level of compensation because that is the only reason why we would review our plans," said Mr Orengo.
The two ministers also challenged anyone opposed to the acquisition plans to go to court and defend their positions. Mr Bett further cited public interest arguing that it was within the law to seek the acquisition of the said parcels of land.
"There is no cause for alarm because the affected persons can petition to get a hearing where they can either support the plans or reject them so some of the claims being made are falsehoods," he said.
Dr Mutua had earlier said that the government realised that the acquisition would leave a dent in the Exchequer as well as burden the Kenyan tax payers.
"What the Gazette Notice indicated was part of a 2006 plan for land acquisition on Mombasa road in preparation for the Nairobi Toll Road project. However, the project has been delayed due to protracted negotiations and since then new developments have taken place on the road," he explained.
"As it stands, acquisition of some of the sections would be too expensive to the Government and a huge burden to the tax payer," he had said.
The government\’s plans have elicited a major outcry from some of the affected companies including the Standard Group who have, among other things, claimed that the move is an attempt to gag media freedom.