The buyers of the land had been enjoying the fruits of their investments while the owner had been struggling in court to see that he takes over the 20-acre parcel of land right behind Nyama Villa in Kayole, Nairobi.
But on Tuesday, that fight was settled by an unwelcome arbiter: bulldozers from the government department which brought down the apartments at the disputed land.
Not even condemnation from local politicians — Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru and Nairobi woman representative Esther Passaris — could stop the demolitions.
Mr Gathiru, who is the area MP, was even bundled into a police Land Cruiser and taken to Kayole Police Station after he tried to confront officers who were providing security as the operation went on.
BOUGHT LAND AT SH100K
According to locals, a parcel of land in the area 10 years ago cost Sh100,000 or less, which attracted numerous investors who bought land and started putting up rental apartments.
Few years later, tenants would flock the area and the price of land would appreciate each year up to the current price of Sh3 million.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the piece of land was freely issued to locals by a former city MP.
The youths then opted to sell it to developers.
This is the area where tens of thousands have been calling home while some are still putting up more buildings due to the ever increasing demand.
On Tuesday morning, the private developer arrived with police officers who, according to locals, issued a short notice before the demolition started.
“I saw bulldozers snake their way into the estate but I didn’t know that they were here to start bringing down a building I have lived for only three months,” said Mr Gilbert Gachau, a victim.
There were frantic efforts as residents tried to salvage their properties before they were destroyed by the heavy machines.
At some point, police officers were forced to fire teargas canisters into the air to disperse an ‘ugly’ crowd that was piling up around buildings that were being demolished.
Dwellers helplessly looked as the bulldozers descended on the houses they once called home.
So bad was the situation that some owners who were not available to safeguard their items had them destroyed by the bulldozers and buried in the rubbles.
Ms Mary Karanja said she had nowhere to move to and even if she secured a vacant house, she cannot raise the rental fee.
“I have nowhere to go. All I hope is that the officers will be here up to late night so that thugs don’t make away with our items until we get a solution,” she said.
Rogue youths took advantage of the situation and even stole from the confused tenants who were trying to rush into the houses and safeguard their goods.
The troubled tenants told the Nation they were not aware of the impending demolitions.
“Since I moved here three years ago, I have never known that there was a pending case in court over the ownership of this land.
“If I knew, I would never have moved here,” said Mr Abel Otieno.
Kayole police boss Joseph Gichangi told the Nation that Mr Gathiru, the MP, will be charged with incitement.
“He is still detained at the Kayole Police Station and investigations into the matter are ongoing.
“He is expected in court as soon as we are through with the investigations,” he said.