• Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023

When Waititu suggested moving rivers out of riparian land for buildings


Dec 2, 2022
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Past controversial remarks by former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu on rivers resurfaced on Friday, December 2, after he was appointed a member of the Nairobi River Commission.

President William Ruto on Friday morning named the former county boss as one of the nine-member team tasked with coordinating the cleanup of the Nairobi River and its environs, two years after he was hounded out of office over abuse of office and graft.

Ironically, Waititu was among leaders who sharply differed with the previous administration’s approach on reclaiming riparian lands to safeguard the city’s water bodies in 2018.

In a video that went viral in August 2018, the then-Kiambu governor slammed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, saying demolitions were not solutions to safeguarding the environment.

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Speaking during a thanksgiving ceremony for Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah at Gikambura in Kiambu on August 12, 2018, Waititu said the government’s approach that saw a number of buildings demolished even in posh suburbs had caused huge losses to local businessmen.

He suggested that developers be allowed to re-route rivers passing near buildings sitting on riparian land.

Mambo ingine mimi naona pale, kama iyo watu wanasupport ubomoaji, mimi hapana support. Mambo iangaliwe, kama nyumba yako imekaribiana na mto, wewe uambiwe ni garama yako kuhakikisha hiyo mto imesonga kidogo,” Waititu told the congregation.

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Loosely translated: “Some of the things I am witnessing there (in Nairobi), I am not supporting [them]. If your house is near a river, you should be told to move that river away from the building at [your] own cost. Demolishing houses is not a solution. Honestly speaking, it’s such a big loss.”

President Ruto, who was then serving as Deputy President, was among the attendees.

After facing a backlash, Waititu later claimed his remarks had been taken out of context.

Meanwhile, President Uhuru insisted that the demolitions would continue, saying he was ready to lose friends to conserve the environment.

“Over the last few weeks, I have lost very many friends. Because I have been receiving very many calls (of people asking me), how can you sit down and watch all these destructions (demolitions) going on. You must stop it. And I said, well, it’s difficult to stop. It’s difficult to stop, not because we love to destroy, but because we must fight impunity because if we fail to fight impunity, we will not achieve our dreams,” Uhuru said.

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Nairobi River Commission

The commission unveiled by Ruto on Friday will be chaired by Pamela A. Olet.

Other members include Mumo Musuva – Representative from Nairobi City County; Grace Senewa Mesopirr — representing the Ministry of Environment and Forestry; Eva Muhia – representing Riverine Communities; Elizabeth Wathuti– representing Civil Society; Carlota Dal Lago – representing the Private Sector; Eng. Elijah Biama– representing Academia; and Duncan Ojwang– representing Academia

In a gazette notice, Ruto said the commission will reclaim the rivers of Nairobi as a spine to the city’s blue and green infrastructure for a better urban environment and quality of life.

The team will also examine previous reports and recommendations made in the efforts of reclaiming the Nairobi River and adopt lessons learned in the new initiative.

“In particular reference to Nairobi River Basin Project (UNEP, 2000); Adopt-A-River Initiative (UNEP and Rotary Clubs, 2019–ongoing), Nairobi River Regeneration Initiative (UN-Habitat and GoK, 2020– ongoing); and Urban Rivers Regeneration Programme (NEMA, 2019 – 2024) and incorporate the lessons to the new initiative;

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“Undertake an assessment of the rivers related to the current and future issues and their root causes and develop a programme called the Nairobi Rivers Basin Regeneration Programme (NABREP) to restore and enhance the Nairobi Basin and related infrastructure to such standards as permits the full enjoyment of a safe, inclusive and healthy environment for all and unlock the socio-economic potential of the Basin,” Ruto said in the gazette notice.

The President also tasked the commission to coordinate the activities of various players mandated to engage in the rehabilitation, protection, restoration, beautification, and sustainable development of the riverine basin within Nairobi City County towards transforming the Nairobi rivers system into a new economic and retail frontier of the city.

“Monitor compliance with the laws and regulations governing the environment of the Basin and its catchment areas in collaboration with the departments, agencies and/or ministries of the County Government of Nairobi and the National Government and propose institutional and regulatory modifications where necessary,” he stated.

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