Thika Peasants Give Government One-Week Ultimatum For Compensation Lest They Stall Sewerage Project.

Angry farmers confront Eng. Muriuki (centre in a white checked shirt) at the Athi Water Services Board offices in Juja as they demanded compensation for their crops occassioned by the implementation of the Thika South Sewerage System 
Peasant farmers from Kiganjo in Kamenu Ward of Thika Constituency yesterday paralysed the operations at the construction site of the Thika South Sewerage System after their demands for compensation for the crops that were damaged in the process preparing for the trunk sewer systems, reticulation and waste-water treatment plant failed to be effected, about two years down the line.

Led by their chairman John Mutura Mwangi, the farmers said that they were not opposed to the development of the project, they were angered in the manner Athi Water Services Board was handling their compensation claims.

“No one here is opposed to the project but we are very perturbed by the manner Athi Water is taking us round and round since 2015. They came to us and asked us to leave our shambas and that they would immediately compensate us for the loss of our produce within the next few months. It is over one and a half years now and instead of honouring their part of the deal, they are dodging us like plague,” lamented Mwangi.

Mwangi explained that, on 24th August 2015, the company did an evaluation of the extent of the damage and promised the farmers that they would be compensated within three months notwithstanding that some of them would gain employment in the project. On 13th March 2016, another team from the company came to the area for appraisal and verification of the names and the affected persons where each one of them was made to sign a compensation form that would be used during the compensation.

“They took all our details including our phone numbers and even made us open bank accounts to that effect. That is the last time we ever heard of them as they even failed to pick my phone when I called them. After we threatened to take action, they came here again on 8th September 2016 and promised to pay us in the next three months. That pledge too has not yet been honoured. So we are left with no option but to demand our right lest we force this project to stop till our demands are met,” added Mwangi.

Several of those who talked to the press admitted that the land was never theirs and at no given time that they were demanding to be compensate for the land.

“Yes, this land belongs to the government but all we are asking is to get compensated for the loss we incurred when they destroyed our crops. I have farmed here for more than 20 years now and this has been my only source of livelihood. Now, I have nowhere to get money for house rent nor school fees for my two daughters in high school. I am only appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene just to ensure that we get our dues,” said Leah Wanjiku, one of the long serving members of the group.

Peter Mburugu Njenga threatened to mobilise the 144 families affected to boycott the 2017 elections as he saw no reason to vote if the same government was not responsive to their people’s plight.
A distant view of the construction works of the sewer system in Kiganjo area of Thika Sub-County.

“What is the reason of us voting if they only need us when they want our votes? It is people like these (Athi Water Service Board) who give the president a bad name! Hawa watu wamekula pesa yetu ni sisi wanazubaisha hapa na promises za kijinga (These people have already consumed our money and are just buying time with fake promises)!” said Njenga.

Responding to their grievances at the Athi Water Services Board offices in Juja, the Project Manager Engineer Muriuki said that the delays had been occasioned by government bureaucracy that involved their company, The Ministry of Lands, housing and Urban Development (MoLH&UD), The Directorate of Nairobi Metropolitan Development (DoNMED) and the World Bank.

He explained that they had already completed the verification stage of this compensation and it was now a matter of time before it was implemented.

“I will personally take up this matter from my juniors and follow up with the authorities. Just give me only this week and I will surely give you their response on the matter,” said Muriuki.

He was face with a very hostile environment when he failed to satisfactorily explain to the irate farmers why his office had over the time given contradicting responses to their concerns. In fact he was eventually forced to flee to avoid the wrath of the farmers who believed that he was just playing hide-and-seek with them.

The farmers vowed that after next week, they will hear none of these excuses as they were suffering to make ends meet. They swore to stall the operations of the project until all their grievances were met even if it meant dying for their rights.

Area MCA Hon. Elizabeth Muthoni Hussein appealed for calm but on the other hand blamed Athi Water Services Board of not being sincere in their pledge and agreement.

“The bone of contention here is that they evicted these people but have failed to compensate for their loss estimated to about sh. 10 million. 144 families lost their livelihood here and it is only fair if they compensated them to assist them in starting over again. Some of these people are old mamas who would otherwise not get employment anywhere else,” said the MCA.

The World Bank in 2015 funded the Kenyan Government through Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project (NaMSIP) for the construction of the Juja & Thika Sewerage System (trunk sewer systems, reticulation and waste-water treatment plant) which comprises of construction of 77km of sewer network and sewerage treatment works at Juja and Thika of capacities 10,000 m3/day and 6,500m3/day respectively.
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