Tearing down buildings and the current Sh39 billion military arms scandal are about stopping one man’s presidential ambitions
By V.C. Jodi Ochieng’
Remember the green bulldozer that terrorized neighbourhoods with demolition of multibillion buildings in 2018? It turns out it was all about President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Deep State cutting down his Deputy to size.
The demolition of buildings sitting on road reserves, public utility plots, water ways and Riparian land, sent massive panic all around with one landlord dying of shock after his perimeter fence was knocked off with one green slap. Turned out it was only interested in the offending fence, not the flat. Another owner of a multibillion mall was hospitalized when his blood pressure shot through the roof after the green bulldozer came calling: Airgate Centre (Taj Mall), South End Mall and the Ukay Centre were reduced to rubble.
The demolitions were part of the Nairobi Regeneration Project to restore parks, unclog drainage systems, clean up rivers, ease road transport, improve garbage collection and reclaim wet lands.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko jumped into the demolition bandwagon and pulled down the iconic tourist stopover that was Simmers Bar along Kenyatta Avenue.
President Uhuru promised to bring down 4000 such buildings besides punishing officials who approved their construction as a way of fighting corruption and impunity, besides encouraging “clean business in Kenya.”
But alas! the demolitions stopped and so did regenerating Nairobi to “reclaim its old glory.” The parks are yet to be restored, drainage systems unclogged, rivers cleaned up, road transport thinned and the city is still full of uncollected garbage and little has been heard of Riparian lands which were to be lush with trees, grass and shrubbery.
In retrospect, the demolitions were both a political red herring and a tool of starving Deputy President William Ruto of campaign funding. The buildings were collateral damage.
The red herring has to be spectacular. It has to shock and awe. And red herrings are best executed as ‘media spectacles’
See, at the time in August 2018, the economy was doing badly from the effects of interest rate capping and quadrupling fuel prices were about to escalate the cost of living in a country with little money in circulation. Companies were issuing profit warnings, others closing down with massive sackings reducing incomes and with it, tax collection.
What to do if you are heading a dysfunctional Presidency and a floundering economy like Uhuru Kenyatta?
You do what politicians do during times of crisis: create a red herring, something that deviate people’s attention from pressing issues of the day.
The red herring has to be spectacular. It has to shock and awe. And red herrings are best executed as ‘media spectacles’. Uhuru’s brand of red herrings includes; sudden cabinet reshuffles, donning military tunics, train rides and dancing to Red Red Wine in reggae concerts.
But those cannot hold a candle to demolishing multibillion shilling buildings.
The five storey Sh2 billion South End Mall owned by former Bobasi MP Stephen Manoti was demolished in August 2018. It was said to be sitting atop a river on Lang’ata Road, leading to perennial flooding and destruction of property in Nairobi West, South C and Lang’ata.
Taj Mall, a Sh5 billion behemoth owned by Ramesh Gorasia, was said to be sitting on a road reserve, and in its place is now a bus stop. Ukay Centre in Westlands was said to be sitting atop a tributary of Nairobi, a Riparian land.
Other buildings demolished included the Grand Manor Hotel in Gigiri and Java House and Shell Petrol station along Ring Road Kilimani.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala warned that the demolitions would cost the ailing economy the northwards of Sh500 billion besides inviting litigations: Kental Enterprises that owned Ukay Centre sued the government for Sh2.3 billion.
But the demolitions, besides being red herrings were
also serving other political purposes of taming Deputy President William Ruto,
according to eminent political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi.
While dissecting political happenings on 5th Estate TV, Ngunyi argued that the demolished buildings were owned by investors who were backing and bankrolling Ruto’s bid for the presidency in 2022 and “the idea was to cut down the finances” by financially hurting his wealthy supporters.
Gorasia had denied that Ruto held any shares in Taj Mall which he rebranded to Airgate Centre following massive exodus of anchor tenants when whiff of demolition-to pave way for the expansion of Outering Road-became a waking nightmare.
“The building is mine and not for William Ruto or anyone else…. I have suffered enough since rumours of its demolition began circulating; losing Sh2 billion to Sh3 billion in rentals, it is enough,” Gorasia, who was unsuccessful in his bid for the Nairobi Senatorial elections in 2017, posed, adding “why should he (Uhuru) demolish it yet he can use it as either as a market or any other public utility?”
The demolitions were also a way of sending warning messages to other financiers of Ruto on the fate awaiting their investment if they did not read the signs on the wall.
Uhuru’s message was a loud, clear rubble. When Ruto’s backers backed off, the demolitions stopped.
But some politicians did not toe the line.
What followed was cutting the political legs of Ruto’s sidekicks most of whom were arrested during ‘Kamata-Kamata Fridays’. “Most were Ruto allies, besides Governors who were sympathetic to Ruto like Waititu and Kiunjuri,” explained Ngunyi and since then, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu has been impeached, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri sacked.
Ngunyi explains that “It’s obvious Uhuru is going for William Ruto who is headed to an impeachment. The impeachment motion will happen…Ruto read politics so wrongly, no wonder he has a PhD in plant science.”
The current fiasco in which it has been alleged that the office of Deputy President was used in conning some foreigners in the Sh39 billion military scandal is among the last cogs in a red herring to wheel him off presidential rails via a choreographed impeachment.
Red herrings have been used down all geological ages. When the economy was tanking in Adolf Hitler’s Germany, he created World War II via the Holocaust and invading neighbouring countries in five years to 1954. When Goldenberg was crippling Kenya’s economy in five years to 1997, the late President Daniel arap Moi’s government fueled ethnic cleansing masquerading as land clashes in the Rift Valley and Likoni in Mombasa.
Facing impeachment in Congress this year, US President Donald Trump authorized the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani this January while on a visit in neighouring Iraq, diverting attention from his trial-which did not succeed in uprooting him from the Oval Office.