How Nairobi mega road projects are creating poverty

By Gatonye Gathura

Three years ago, Ann Ndululu, 38, was able to feed, clothe and educate her four children with little hustle.

But all that has now been taken away by the new magnificent, Sh9 billion Chinese-made Outer Ring Road.

For 15 years Ann ran a food kiosk on a road reserve along Outer Ring Road near Tassia in Embakasi.

“In a month I could make about Sh60.000 which was enough to give us a decent living,” says Ann now displaced and squeezed into a standing only space at Tassia Market.

Now selling fruits and a few stalks of kales, Ann can hardly make Sh 200 a day. “We are devastated, I don’t even know how my girls survive and I am afraid to ask,”

“Every time I cross this road I feel like crashing into oncoming traffic and ending it all. In any case it took away my soul,” say the beaten mother,

Ann and several hundred others are victims of the ongoing modernization of the 13km Outer Ring Road started around 2014 and to be completed in April.

It has been described as a beauty and a game changer in Nairobi, reducing perennial traffic congestion along Jogoo Road, making transportation faster, easier and cheaper.

The road, the Director General at Kenya Urban Roads Authority Silas Kinoti says will improve property value and business environment for both formal and informal traders.

But despite assurances by government agencies and the chief Outer Ring Road project financier the African Development Bank (AfDB) that even displaced traders, like Ann, would get a soft and humane landing this did not happen.

“Even though livelihood restoration mechanisms had been factored, they were poorly managed to the detriment of dislocated traders,” says a recent evaluation report by Hohai University of China.

The report published on 1st February suggests Ann’s experience is no way to treat thousands of informal traders being displaced by the many mega projects being implemented in Kenya mainly by Chinese companies.

The Af DB records shows 615 informal traders and a few commercial-cum-residential properties were dislocated by the project.

Called PAPs or People Affected by Project, those with land or property were compensated while informal traders were offered resettlement and transport allowances.

For most this amounted to around Sh15, 000 for relocation and transport allowances for those with movable asses.

The agencies had promised to help informal traders relocate to the nearby markets of Kariobangi North, Kariobangi South, Tassia, Kiamaiko and Tena while they constructed a 1200 capacity market along Kangundo Road.

“As part of the development of Outer Ring Road, AfDB gave us Sh1 billion to build a market. This will be city’s biggest market and those displaced by the road project will get first priority,” Dr Evans Kidero, former Nairobi governor told area residents in 2015.

While the nearby markets were found to be already full the promised Kangundo Road is yet to be done.

In December Silas Kinoti called on the traders, who have now returned and choking the new road, to be patient, because Kangundo Road market will be done soon.

Ann and colleagues say they have since spent the relocation money and will be unable to move and restart even if the promised Kangundo Road market ever takes off.

The Chinese study, discredits the process where poor people are first displaced, paid relocation money and then have to wait for years for an alternative site to be developed.

“This is an indication, resettlement components had not been emphasized with the same zeal as the civil and engineering works,” says the study appearing in the International Journal of Global Sustainability.

Apart from the delayed Kangundo Road market, 80 per cent of Ann’s group said the allowances they get was too little to get them alternative space.

This, the study says was worsened by ‘mungiki-like; groups who demand a huge protection fee for anybody starting or operating a business in the area.

Peter Mundinia, the Director General at Kenya National Highway Authority is categorical that no trader or hawker will be allowed back along the new road.

“When completed by April nobody will be allowed to put up any roadside kiosk, structure or business. Not even mobile hawkers.” said Mundinia in an interview with KTN.

The Hohai University study now want mega project funders such as the European Union, World Bank and AfDB to be stricter in ensuring traders like Ann are better protected as provided by the Kenyan law.

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