By Magdalene Mukami
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Citing safety concerns but leaving hundreds of people homeless, Kenya on Wednesday began demolishing over 200 substandard buildings marked as unsafe in the capital Nairobi.
The multi-story buildings were marked for demolition by the Nairobi Public Works Department following the collapse of a 198-room residential building late last month due to heavy flooding, killing 51 people and injuring hundreds.
Many of the houses to be brought down by heavy machinery from the county government are located in the Huruma and Mathare areas, home to some of Kenya’s poorest neighborhoods.
Some 400 families were left homeless after the destruction of three buildings in Huruma on Wednesday, said the local head of an international aid group, speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking with the media.
Anne Njeri, a mother of two who used to own a shop in one of the buildings, told Anadolu Agency that she has no place to go.
“Where do they want me to go? I have nowhere to go. I had already paid this month’s and next month’s rent. I have nowhere to go unless the government gives us funds to aid us in moving,” she said.
Pointing at one of the buildings earmarked for demolition, businessman Peter Njeru thanked the government for keeping its promises. “Like that one, it was just shaking. The other day its topmost floor came tumbling down. Luckily no one was hurt, but people still continued to live in that place.
“I thank the government for taking such measures, but I would want the people who have been left without a place to live to be sorted out. One month’s rent or two month’s rent would do, that is 5,000 Kenya shillings (about $50) per month.”
The residents had been given notice one week ago by the county government to vacate the premises.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero previously said that the buildings did not meet the country’s building standards and had been erected on the banks of a river.
He blamed local politicians who have delayed the demolition in court and corrupt government employees tasked with inspecting the buildings for the deaths of the 51 people.
The Nairobi county government has been facing a major challenge in housing people who are streaming into the Kenyan capital from rural areas in search of employment.
For the more than 400 families which have been so far been affected, finding affordable new houses will be an even harder task, and more than 200 houses are to suffer the same fate within a period of six months.