The death traps of Huruma – who will protect the vulnerable?

February 14, 2018 9:13 am
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“Some people are already returning to some of the buildings they had been asked to vacate. It is because of poverty,” Dorcas Mutungi, a survivor of the 2016 incident told Capital FM News/COSMUS MWONGELA

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 14 – It is either out of ignorance or they just don’t care about the consequences.

How then would you define people who proceed knowingly to a death trap?

But who should ensure they are safe?

But still, they have an explanation for their chancy move to rent rooms in buildings that have been earmarked as unfit for human habitation.

It is in Huruma, a low-income residential area within Nairobi County at the place where a building collapsed some two years ago, killing 52 lives while others sustained serious injuries.

Survivors of the incident have since moved on with life but events of the fateful day remain etched in their minds.

It is heart-wrenching for them to see other people, knowingly or unknowingly, renting some adjacent buildings that have been condemned for demolition.

But they are doing nothing to stop them.

“Some people are already returning to some of the buildings they had been asked to vacate. It is because of poverty,” Dorcas Mutungi, a survivor of the 2016 incident told Capital FM News.

Other occupants, she says, are not aware that the buildings they are renting were earmarked for demolition.

“It was all over the news but some people cannot tell whether it is this place. A lot has changed since then,” she said.

And as established by Capital FM News, most such buildings have been repainted to have a deceiving look and to look attractive to potential tenants.

The rent has also been reduced to attract more people.

“The owners know what they did with county officials,” our guide, who is also the area ‘security boss’ said on condition of anonymity.

According to him, the owners of the condemned building compromised law enforcers, but at what cost?

– Failing memory –

In a bid to conceal what is happening in the riparian grounds where the building collapsed and others demolished by the County Government, a group of youths have sealed the place from outsiders.

They man the place all day long to ensure no officials or “intruders” get there.

“It is a protected place,” the Capital FM crew ‘guide’ asserted. “It is not safe.”

But in the real sense, it is not about safety, Capital FM News established.

They have started building houses on the riparian land, which is beside the Nairobi River.

“This is our new project. They won’t go to high levels as before. We don’t want them to sink,” he said.

He also added that there are “private developers” who also want to build houses there.

At the entrance of a seven-storey building that the County Government, under the leadership of the then Governor Evans Kidero condemned, a placard reads “rooms available”.

“You see, people want cheap houses since the cost of living has gone high. The rooms there are expansive and there is enough water,” Mutuli said.

These are sentiments shared by Bridget Otieno, another survivor of the 2016 incident.

The mother of six lost her husband while she sustained injuries.

“People have gone back to those houses, the majority are new. I cannot go telling them that the building is not safe…” she said.

But her challenge is to the County Government.

“Why are you allowing people to rent unsafe buildings?” she wonders.

“It is up to authorities to enforce the law. The people are innocently occupying these buildings.”

– We are coming for you –

According to the Nairobi County Government, 70 per cent of buildings are not approved “mainly because our enforcement and compliance capacity has come down. We as a City County and the previous administration have not been able to build enough capacity to police the constructions coming up.”

County Executive in charge of Land, Urban planning, and Housing Wachira Njuguna, attributes the housing menace to “greed” by some rogue private developers and not corruption involving law enforcers.

“It is very important that we sort out this problem once and for all,” he said during an Interview with Capital FM News.

“There is no connection between corruption and unsafe buildings. It is basically greed of the developers.”

For long, he said there has been, “no interventions that have been put in place to ensure we improve their (low-income earners) quality of life.”

The county, he revealed, has earmarked 650 buildings for demolition, but he could not provide timelines.

The big question is, shall they wait until another disaster happens?

Providing affordable houses to Kenyans is among the Jubilee administration’s ‘Big Four’ agenda that President Uhuru Kenyatta wishes to affirm his legacy with, as he serves his second and final term.

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