, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16- Mohammad Hassan, 86, was asleep when the glasses of his bedroom’s window were smashed and without a warning, the metal grill dismantled.
What stood between him and the rowdy youths under the supervision of officials from the Nairobi County Government was an old and faded light white curtain.
The once calm Pangani estate in the capital, where only the speeding vehicles could be heard from a distance was falling to pieces.
At this point, Hassan did not know whether they were under an attack or not, but he said he could tell all was not well.
The idea of an attack was mind-boggling, he said, since they are just behind Pangani police station.
“Just how daring are these people?” he wondered.
Confused and shaken, Hassan told Capital FM News, he turned towards the right side of his bed, just to confirm his wheelchair was still intact- just in case, he needed to use it.
And as he had imagined, he would use it with the assistance of his wife Asha Mohammed- his companion for more than 50 years and mother to their 4 children.
From 11 pm to 3 am, his wife told Capital FM News, that they watched helplessly as 53 years rich of memories crumbled, right in their face.
“My husband and I joined the rest of the residents outside in the cold. He is ailing but what else would I have done?” she posed rhetorically.
“Is this is what you do to a man who served his country selflessly for years?” he wondered.
According to Asha, her husband joined Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) as a Laboratory technician, at the time it was referred to as King George hospital.
Kenya, she vividly recalled, was about to regain her independence.
“This has been our home for more than 50 years. We have raised our children here. We did not think we would be kicked out in such a inhumane way,” a teary Mohammed said.
Their story was not unique, as that was a shared experience among dozens of residents the estate who were rendered homeless.
It was a night of terror, they said, one that they never imagined, since they had an agreement to vacate the premises by July 31.
When we caught up with them, Asha had just bid an emotional goodbye to her neighbour of 50 years, a woman who only identified herself as Mama Kiarie.
While she is yet to decide where they will relocate to, Mama Kiarie and her family have moved to Ruiru, Kiambu County—several kilometers from the capital Nairobi.
Those who spoke to Capital FM News said they are not against vacating the place but the way it was executed.
“People were already getting to sleep when we heard a lot of noise outside. They (the rowdy youths who were in the company of county officials) were so many,” Mwangi Muthui, narrated.
“We stayed outside until they finished demolishing. They really made sure the servant quotas were brought down,” he said.
All the apartments had their window grills dismantled, glasses smashed and guard rails along the staircases brought down- to render the houses inhabitable.
“Why come with goons for such an operation?” Muthui posed.
Some claimed their belongings were stolen during the late-night operation.
-City Hall on the spot-
According to officials, Nairobi City County moved there to reclaim a parcel of land earmarked for the construction of modern apartments.
City Hall officials said Governor Mike Sonko’s administration intends to construct decent houses in the area as part of the housing pillar in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 Agenda.
“We must safeguard our future generations Governor Mike Sonko recently met the Pangani residents at City Hall and issued them with cheques. Let’s all work with positive minds if we want a better future. This is in line with the President’s Big Four Agenda. As you are aware, blame games and finger-pointing retards development. This is purely development and let’s not politicize it,” Nairobi County communication boss Elkana Jacob said.
About 1,500 affordable houses are set to be constructed in the claimed parcel of land.
Governor Sonko on May 9 said all the residents will be allocated with an apartment at a cost of Sh3 million, payable within a 30-year period.
“In addition, my administration has issued to each of the 48 tenants a cheque of Sh600,000 as rent to wherever they’ll move to for the 2-year construction period,” he said.
-Plan to phase out old buildings-
Under the County Comprehensive Urban Renewal Programme, the City Government plans to construct 100,000 new housing units.
This is meant to meet the ever-growing demand for affordable housing, in a city with more than 5 million residents, and a hub for East Africa.
Apart from Pangani, other targeted estates include Bahati, Mbotela, Ziwani, Makongeni, Kaloleni, Jericho and Shauri Moyo in the eastlands part of the city.
Currently, the County has 14,000 housing units, some of which are dilapidated.