BY JOAN WANJIKU,NAIROBI,23RD DEC,2021-President Uhuru Kenyatta has allayed fears among a section of Kenyans and Nairobians, in particular, that the iconic Uhuru Park has been grabbed by private developers.
This comes following public outcry about the state of the facility due to ongoing construction works at the park which has rendered it inaccessible to the general public, leading to a court petition challenging the exercise.
President Kenyatta however, speaking while touring the Nairobi Expressway project on Thursday, sought to assure the populace that the construction works are just aimed at giving the park a facelift.
He dismissed claims about Uhuru Park being grabbed, even further urging journalists who were present during the tour to capture the construction works and relay the information to Kenyans for purposes of transparency.
The Head of State termed the park’s facelift as one of the many projects his government is engaging in at the moment to ensure the better livelihood of Kenyans and transform Nairobi into a world class city.
“The difference that is being occasioned by the road building, by the drainage and sewage being put in, I do believe that within another two years, Nairobi will be a truly 21st century city, catering for its population in a positive manner and in a manner befitting our people,” he said.
“Hata nyinyi mkitaka, wale ambao walikuwa wanasema ati sijui tumegrab Uhuru Park sijui na Central Park, mpige picha wananchi waone ile kazi inaendelea huko jameni. Na hii yote ni kuboresha maisha ya Wakenya wetu, wawe wanaweza kujivunia mji wao wa Nairobi, wawe wanaweza kujivunia nchi yao Kenya. Na hiyo ndiyo haja yetu, sisi hatuna haja ingine.”
The sealing off of the park few months saw Kenyans question the end game of the ongoing works, with small-scale traders who operated within the park raising complaints.
Nairobi County Assembly Majority Whip Paul Kados previously indicated that the House passed the motion to pave way for the closure of the park for renovation, with the exercise expected to complete early next year
“The rehabilitation of the park will be complete in six months, as one of the legacy project of the president,” the Majority whip said.
The Notice of motion by the Majority Leader Abdi Guyo on the subject of renovating Uhuru and Central parks, as seen by Citizen Digital, read in part: “If the state of disrepair of Uhuru Park and Central Park is not remedied, the parks risk losing their appeal, historical significance and recognition.”
The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has since also said it is transforming the park into a modern recreation centre with flowers and water fronts, purely for the public good.
The Environment and Lands Court on December 7, 2021 however issued orders stopping the renovations at Uhuru Park grounds pending hearing and determination of a petition challenging the exercise.
This is after the Communist Party of Kenya moved to court arguing that the respondents, who include the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) and County Assembly of Nairobi, were cutting down trees and in turn destroying the flora and fauna at the park.
“The 1st Respondent has also initiated a process of replacing the green lawn of grass at the Park with concrete cement blocks, an action which, unless stalled by this Court, will greatly degrade the botanical and environmental qualities of the Park to the detriment of Nairobi residents who have been the greatest beneficiaries of the same,” read court papers
Further, they argued that already the respondents had destroyed the historic pavilion at the park and intends to cause further destruction.
The petitioner further claimed that the project is shrouded in secrecy and no public participation was conducted before embarking on the works at the park.
“The project is shrouded in secrecy, where the whole park has been blocked from the public, and all attempts by the Petitioner to gain information on the Project from the 1st and 2nd Respondents have failed,” read the documents.
“In connection to this project, Processional Way and other pathways that are connected to the Park have been closed off to the public without any notices and without any alternatives being offered. Military officers armed to the teeth, assumed to be under the command of the 2nd Respondent, have cordoned off the entrances to the said pathways.”
The Communist Party of Kenya wants the court to order that the park be reinstated to its position before the renovations, including opening the park to the public, planting grass, planting trees and rebuilding the main pavilion.