NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 7 – There was drama at the hand-over ceremony of controversial police houses in Lang’ata on Wednesday afternoon when a woman claiming ownership of one of the houses shouted down Public Works Minister Chris Obure, prompting police officers to forcefully eject her.
The minister was forced to cut short his speech as the woman who was seated less than three meters from the main dais shouted at the top of her voice, accusing the government of grabbing their houses.
She is one of the members of the Mitumba Women group who have unsuccessfully fought a court battle to block police officers from taking over the housing project located at West Park near Wilson airport.
Of contention are some 595 housing units put up at a cost of Sh2.2 billion.
The project consists of 11 maisonettes, 24 blocks of three-bedroomed flats and another 18 blocks of two-bedroomed flats.
“Why is the government taking over our houses forcefully, this is a sign of impunity! Does it mean we don’t have a right in this country?” the woman yelled as she resisted attempts by male police officers to take her away.
Armed police officers at all the gates into the new estate were under instructions not to allow access to any of the women claiming ownership of the houses but the woman is reported to have convinced them that she was a journalist and casually walked to the dais.
“I have a right to be here, why are you forcing me to leave? I am the owner of house number two, I am not going anywhere,” she shouted as male police officers manhandled her and eventually bundled her to an unmarked police car which sped off to the Lang’ata Police station.
Camera crews that were filming the minister’s key note address quickly dismantled their cameras from mounted stands and focused their attention to the unfolding drama.
Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe admitted to journalists the manner in which the woman was handled was “totally unprofessional” but quickly added that “even the female journalists and other members of the public present could not have agreed if requested by the male police officers to assist in getting the woman out of this place.”
“The incident is very embarrassing. It is totally embarrassing to see male police officers manhandling a woman especially when she is violent like the case we just witnessed but I blame it on ourselves because female police officers were not deployed to this function,” the Police Spokesman said.
The group of women claim they pulled resources together some years back and bought the houses before they were allegedly grabbed by the police department.
According to the Public Works Ministry, the women’s group claims they were allocated the land by retired President Daniel arap Moi through the assistance of a former Permanent Secretary for Internal Security, the late Hezekiah Oyugi.
Deputy Police Commissioner Francis Okonya who represented the police chief at the event said by acquiring the houses, the government had demonstrated commitment to motivate police officers by housing them in a conducive environment.
“The police officer you see out there patrolling or controlling traffic will not be able to discharge their duty properly if they continue to live in makeshift houses. We are proud of this project,” he said.
The project was undertaken by the Ministry under the completion of stalled projects programme which were revived in 2005 and were expected to be completed by 2008.
The Public Works Ministry blames non-performing contractors for the delay.