Former Kenya’s Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga has joined voices with other concerned Kenyans following the launch of Chinese Property Developers Association in Nairobi last week.
According to the association, they aim to to boost property development in the country.
The Association’s President Zhang Jiaping said the association has been established as a platform that will act as a bridge to serve society and benefit humanity.
However, many are reading from a different script with suspicions that there could be more into it than what the Chinese are saying.
“Nairobi has been auctioned off to the highest bidder under the “solicitous” gaze of Governor Johnson Sakaja.” Jerotich Seii, human rights activist says.
“The Chinese Association will turn whatever is left of the Green City in the Sun into a vast, unrecogizable jungle of high rise, concrete tenements that will enrich their Chinese shareholders and Kenyan surrogates, all the while destroying our children’s future.” She sounded the alarm.
She accuses the Chinese of operating with impunity in the country disregarding ethics laws.
“The Chinese Property Developers Association and their ilk fear no one – probably not even the law – and laugh at Nairobians because they know that the top leadership, including the Governor, already backs them. They will continue to exploit “grey areas” in spite of clear zoning regulations, environmental codes NEMA and constitutionally enshrined public participation requirements. They will despite their assertions – continue to hide behind architects and contractors who allegedly grease palms as needed aka the-cost-of-doing-business-in-Kenya. Their demarche on Nairobi is akin to a melting iceberg and I want to believe that we will wake up before we drown.”
In echoing her sentiments, Dr. Mutunga said, “Xi Jinping tells the world that China is different from the West. Like the West China does not respect our Constitution. Until we realize how enslaved our corrupt political leadership and the leadership of our institutions are we will lose our country.”
He went further, “I once described our economy as a bandit one ruled by national and international cartels. We are ruled by forces whose names don’t appear on the ballot papers when we vote. Those who entertain the idea that China will liberate the Global South from the West should think again.”
Okawo Nashon, a real estate expert in Nairobi has termed the association as a joke and insult to the professionals in the country, “it is a shameful joke that should be condemned and resisted. So what will be next; Chinese Engineers Association? Italians Contractors Association? Or Mongolian Architects Association? Why not join the well established Kenya Property Developers Association?What is so special about these Chinese developers? We want sanity in this industry not some entitled people out to kick the can down the road and flee back when things will be messy. Make no mistake, we welcome everybody, but we must have some order.” He opined.
During the launch, the Association’s President Zhang Jiaping said the association has been established as a platform that will act as a bridge to serve society and benefit humanity. Zhang said the association will act per government approvals and construct according to approved drawings. At the same time, he noted that the association will seek to protect the rights and interests of property owners.
At the backdrop of all this, one of the leaders in the association has been doing the opposite of what’s they’re saying and promising.
To elaborate that the association is not as ‘harmless’ and seeks to only do good things, Ms Seii who is also a leader of Kilimani Estate residents association, exposed how Alina Valley Company Ltd, a company associated with Mr. Jack Wu as the Managing Director. Mr. Wu also happens to be the Vice Chair of the Chinese Property Developers Association.
It emerges that the company has allegedly been frustrating the residents of Kilimani by putting up a structure contrary to the laid rules of the estate.
Anatomy of Corruption
- April 2022: Alina Valley Company Ltd. begins to mobilise heavy duty machinery on a 1 acre plot on Likoni Lane to build 3 blocks of 17 storey apartments. They have no County Approvals, NEMA or NCA Licences. The residents are up in arms and block the road, forcing the developer to demobilise.
- Residents demand that public participation is carried out. Alina attempts to carry out a sham public participation, where the Kenyan architect presents drawings labelled Chinese. The residents reject the project and ask the developer to go back to the drawing board and revise the drawings to meet the zoning guidelines and present them in English.
- Alina returns and tries to forcefully carry public participation without giving the necessary notices and in the rain to discourage the residents from participating. The residents reject this and send the developer away.
- Alina mysteriously gets approvals from the County without any public participation. The residents engage the Physical Planning Department to interrogate how this can be possible. The County duly ignores the residents.
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- Alina then submits an EIA report to NEMA to apply for a licence. The residents engage NEMA and submit a comprehensive counter report outlining the unsuitability of the site for such a high- impact project.
- Because the report by the residents makes sense, Alina decides to cancel the NEMA Licence application and begin the process all over again as advised by some NEMA insiders.
- Alina once again attempts to force public participation to tick a box in meeting the legal NEMA requirements by hiring goons to attend the meeting and intimidate the residents, some who even threatened the lives of the residents. This is reported to NEMA and the County.
- The County suspends all the approvals they had granted to the developer on account of the above.
- The developer submits a fresh EIA report to NEMA, without any public participation. The residents counter this with a comprehensive report and signed petitions, with evidence of intimidation by the developer. NEMA disregards all of the above and grants the developer a licence.
- Apropos of nothing, the Chinese Property Developers Association pays a visit to State House and meets with the First Lady, giving a donation of 100 water tanks and 10,000 tonnes of maize. (This often seen as a gesture of asking for favors).
- In early January 2024, the Chinese Property Developers Association visits Governor Sakaja.
- The very next day, the suspended approvals for Alina Valley by the County are ‘mysteriously’ reinstated, and the NCA also grants them a licence in a record 24 hrs.
- January 16, 2024, construction begins with earnest on the site. The narrow roads on Likoni Lane are unable to accommodate the construction trucks and machinery, so the roads are blocked by the trucks and the residents cannot access their homes. All this had been highlighted to NEMA in the report submitted by the residents, but fell on deaf ears as envelopes changed hands.
But one wonders how they can be able to pull off such projects.
They will invite you to fill in some questionnaires (and probably pad them with cooked responses). And then they will invite you to attend a public participation meeting. They will set it on a weekday and with less than a 14 day notice. You will object – because who wants 18 storeys built beacon to beacon next to them?
They will go away. Regroup. Go back to the County. Cook their EIA (usually written by someone from NEMA) and submit it to NEMA. Get their approvals at lightning speed.
Prior to That:
- Scavenge for leasehold properties whose leases are coming to an end (preferably with elderly or deceased owners). OR prey on those who properties are so devalued through being surrounded by high rise buildings (also build by said Chinese). OR dupe some non-forward thinking individual into a JV using his/her land.
- Import their architectural plans directly from China; written in Mandarin – not for our ease of reference. Find a local architect (usually not a very seasoned professional) to register/localise the plan.
- Find their local fixers who are usually a combination of Chinese nationals (now Kenyan citizens) who are now called Aaron, Jack, etc, who work with a couple of Kenyans who are either the thuggish type or those who drive around in big vehicles wearing Gucci and entice neighbours and associations to receive “compensation” for what they are about to do. One such lady approached us on Ndemi Road and it was clear that her Mandarin was better than her English or even Kiswahili.
- Look for the rogue-est of rogue salvagers/excavators who know how to “deal” with the locals.
- Descend on the County, NEMA and all the usual suspects that need softening and all manner of inducements.
- Pretend to tick boxes knowing full well that their “development” is already a fait accompli.
Ms Jerotich says the Kilimani case is not isolated, “this story is almost identical everywhere you go in Kilimani and beyond. How Nairobi City County and NEMA have turned against Nairobians is incredible. The Chinese Property Developers Association believes that by repackaging themselves; running to State House; giving donations; and then running to Governor Sakaja, they are above the law and the wishes of Kenyans. They are counting on our silence as they continue their demarche.”
She adds, “we speak up now or forever hold our peace. This is not just about Kilimani. This is about the Nairobi We Want for future generations and the Chinese Property Developers Association can only but contribute to a dystopian future because they have been allowed to run amok.”