NAIROBI, Kenya, May 30 – The Park – a barren field of red soil and hyacinth growing on the Nairobi Dam – might be called Undugu (brotherliness) but it was not camaraderie on display on Friday, but violence.
A group of marauding youths set upon their area (Nyayo Highrise) representative Morris Akuk, his supporters and bouncers with kicks, shoves and blows as they made their way down the field for pre-Environment Day activities.
“You are ‘eating’ all the money by yourself,” they shouted at him.
His security team however managed to whisk and hide him before any grievous harm came to him as members of the press, the Nairobi County Government, the Nairobi Water Company and the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) looked on in amazement.
“No wonder the Governor is a no-show. He must have been alerted to the tension and the fact that they are no policemen on the grounds. Without money it would have been a problem getting him out of here,” one of the county officials was heard saying.
The Governor was to preside over a tree-planting exercise, in the lead-up to World Environment Day on June 5, on what could be called the banks of the Nairobi Dam, “not officiate a boxing match,” another of his officials added.
In the spirit of the “show must go on” however, a group of acrobats and school children went on make their presentations as Akuk recovered and tried to downplay the affair.
“Our youth obviously when there’s a project like this they always demand something in return and because the project is still at its initiation stage, we have not reached that point of actually giving them the jobs or have something set aside for their participation. So the scuffle there is not about the project itself, it’s about them demanding some monetary benefits,” Akuk said before adding, “I never carry my wallet to these parts.”
Akuk was referring to the recently initiated Nairobi Dam restoration efforts under the guidance of a Kidero-empowered taskforce.
And the chairman of the taskforce Bartonjo Chesaina told Capital FM News that they were committed to the restoration of the dam in spite of the hostilities.
“All these plants you see behind me are growing on solid waste that has compacted over the years. We need to remove all that so we can access the water which is below. But more importantly is to clean up the affluent coming from Kibera because this dam is fed by rivers. Those rivers are heavily polluted. Heavily polluted,” he said.
A state of affairs he said they were hoping to begin reversing in six months. “We hope to have the hyacinth cleared out by then, a fence around the dam and bring on investors who would be willing to work with us in transforming the Nairobi Dam to something similar to the Cape Waterfront with sailing and the like. That’s off course all premised on our receiving adequate funding to get the ball rolling.”
On Friday however, Chesaina’s most immediate concern appeared to be the youth who remained skulking in a corner following their violent outburst but even with them, money appeared to be at the crux of the matter.