The government Wednesday demolished dozens of high-end houses in Nairobi, leaving owners counting losses amounting to millions of shillings.
However, further demolitions were stopped after President Uhuru Kenyatta intervened saying the owners should be given more time to leave.
The houses in South B estate, each costing approximately Sh10 million, were brought down early in the morning following a protracted dispute on the ownership of the land they were built on.
More than 20 houses belonging to the Executive Housing company were brought down by earth movers after the Ministry of Agriculture ordered the destruction.
Home owners, however, cried foul saying they had not been given any notice to vacate the piece of land.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Kosgey Wednesday said the land estimated to be 243 acres belong to the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute but home owners disputed this saying they bought the land and had genuine documents to prove their purchase.
The minister said the President had ordered that the exercise be suspended to give disgruntled owners more time to vacate the land.
Nairobi Senator Gideon Mbuvi led hundreds of residents demanding a stop to the demolitions. The lawmaker said he had asked Mr Kosgey to suspend the demolitions but said he sanctioned the exercise despite agreeing not to.
“The owners have genuine documents. You cannot say they got the pieces of land illegally yet they pay land rates to the county and land rents to the national governments. How can you say they are illegal owners?” posed Mr Mbuvi.
However, Mr Kosgey who visited the estate after the crowd dispersed insisted that the contested land belonged to the institute and now one could claim it.
“The second, third or fourth buyers maybe innocent but the fact is this land was acquired unlawfully by those who sold it to them. We are not going to relent on our pursuit of acquiring this land,” said the CS.
Of the 243 acres, only 72 have remained with the veterinary institute, others hived off and sold to unsuspecting buyers. Mr Kosgey asked the buyers to pursue those who sold them saying the government did not have any plan to compensate them despite losing millions of shillings to the demolition.
One of the owners Beatrice Karanja said she had a title deed and genuine documents showing she got the land lawfully.
“Now we do not even know what to do. We have invested millions of shillings here and suddenly we are being told the land does not belong to us. We pay land rents and required rates to the government. Why are they accepting the payments if they are from illegally acquired land?” asked Ms Karanja who said she had invested Sh5 million in her property.
Some of the key installations earmarked for demolitions in the area are Winners Chapel International and also houses built by Kenya Bankers Sacco. Housing units by Diamond Park Housing Company are also on the radar for demolition.
A Press release by the ministry said the initial sellers of the land were National Social Security Fund, Secretary to the former commissioner of lands Anne Nyambura and Tilley and Samu Ltd.