5 lessons from the Langata Road Primary School saga

1. Schools need to get title deeds

Sometime back, there was some beef between the Father-in-Charge at Kambaa Catholic Church and the management of Kanyore Primary School right next door. The man of God at the new parish hived off Githunguri wanted to fence off the church compound and create a little more space for the church. The beef arose because he wanted the church to have more space for a lawn and a shrine, which meant changing the orientation of the football pitch, moving the gate and adjusting the well-established entrance to the school. Some words were exchanged and the priest prevailed but the church was eventually locked out of the hall built in the school and had to build their own. The dispute was partly made easy to handle because the church and the school came into existence at the same time. We have seen with the Langata Road Primary School playground affair that when a school and a private citizen or company clash over land, the latter will likely be the loser.

2. Sometimes you need a brave man (even if a little teargas comes along)

Some of the blame for the kids getting teargassed on Monday is being directed at Boniface Mwangi, who is seen in one of the photographs, before the teargas was thrown, in the midst of school pupils and appearing to angrily lead them in pointing accusing fingers at one of the cops guarding the land. I don’t know whether Boniface was to blame for anything seeing as before he propelled himself into the affair, the kids had no playground and all the National Land Commission was doing was visiting the land as the politicians kept their way and the Twitterati twiddled their thumbs. Because of the Boniface-led protest and the police’s thoughtlessness, the children now have a playground. There is still a case in the courts filed by Airport View Ltd but with Major-General Nkaissery making the school his first port of call Tuesday morning, President Kenyatta making those statements against the land commission and the Lands ministry and all the media attention now fixated on the land, I doubt anyone else will ever want to occupy it. All because of a brave man and his few brave friends.

3. Swazuri and Ngilu (and probably everybody else) was sleeping on the job

I was walking up the bridge on the Reminisce side of Langata Road on December 22 last year when I became aware of a fast moving person bounding up the stairs on my right. Then the muzzle of a gun came into view and the man holding it quickly passed me. It was an Administration Policeman in full uniform. Police come in pairs so his colleague was behind me. As we descended the stairs on the other side, the two cops were already over the fence and walking to the shade of the trees next to the school, where the construction of the wall was going on. I wondered then what was going on. That was a month to Teargas Day. In between, my colleagues were attacked when they went to photograph the site, the National Land Commission officials have been to the place a few times, while the ministry and the politicians waited until the brave people had brought the wall down to make their declarations. Where were they all along?

4. What police reforms?

If the right to hold demonstrations is still in the Constitution, what would you say the cops were doing when they gassed those kids? Ok. They were pushing down the wall of what was then assumed to be private property. After they had done that, all manner of government officials emerged from the woodwork to declare that the school was the rightful owner of the school’s playground.
If that cop who threw the canisters would have told his commander that he couldn’t stomach throwing tear gas at a kid, would he have faced any punishment under the Force Standing Orders?

5. There is a beneficiary of all this walking awaaay in this town.

There is, in this urban centre somewhere, a man or a group of men, there might even be women involved, who presented the land for sale. They called the client to a room in the private members’ club on the top floor of a hotel, bought them a meal and a glass of wine, ordered an expensive double of one of those smoky whiskeys and then laid out the plan. With laser pointers they showed the person the plot, showed them the documents from Survey of Kenya, pulled out some maps and transparencies and told him what a good investment this is. What about the school next door, the man might have asked? No problem. A file was extracted and plans were shown once more. Look at these houses here. Before the owner built them, a claim was made but was withdrawn after they looked at these here plans. What about Nairobi West Prison? That belongs to the government and is well documented here. Once you fence the plot¬†off and build it up, people will forget. Deal sealed. Money in the bank. Walk awaay.

 

There is an additional lesson re the top Jubilee politician constantly connected to the land: the internet is always awake.

 

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