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How top-level meeting allowed Radisson hotel to erect barrier on Arboretum road

By Amina Wako December 4th, 2020 3 min read

Arboretum park lane has become the latest public road to have a barrier erected, much to the chagrin of many Nairobi residents.

Anyone who wishes to access the Nairobi Arboretum park, Kenya Forest Service, State House, State House Primary School, Kenya Girl Guides Association, Jabali Elementary School as well as the Radisson Blu hotel will have to pass through the Arboretum park lane.

The erection of the barrier left Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja seething with rage. And he registered his disapproval on social media.

“The Nairobi Arboretum is a public space that many Nairobians enjoy. The road leading up to it is also a public road. A private entity (Radisson) has put up a barrier on this public road where members of the public are screened. I have asked @NMS_Kenya to deal ASAP,” Sakaja wrote on Twitter.

He then warned Radisson hotel to remove the barrier.

Nation.Africa can, however, confirm that the barrier was erected after meetings of stakeholders and the Westlands sub-county security team.

The stakeholders, who included State House, Kenya Forest Service Arboretum, Jabali Elementary, Kenya Girl Guides Association, National Police Service and Radisson Blu requested to have the barrier erected for security reasons.

The conversation to have the barrier started after the January 2019 DusitD2 complex attack.

The boda-boda operators who camped outside the Arboretum entrance waiting for or dropping clients visiting the park also worried them.

As the conversation was going on, in July 2019, an intruder was shot and injured after he climbed over one of the State House gates.

The need to have a barrier became even more urgent.

So, they contacted the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) and they were allowed to erect the barrier.

“We are aware of the barrier. We allowed it there because of the security reasons raised by the stakeholders. Remember it is not a throughway, so it is important to know who goes in and comes out to avoid incidents like the State House intruder,” John Cheboi, the chief corporate communications officer at Kura, said.

Thereafter, the stakeholders, through Leisure Park Development Limited — the mother company of Radisson Blu Hotel — on December 10, 2019, wrote to Nairobi City County about the proposed erection of the security barrier.

And, on January 17 this year, the county replied granting permission for the work to begin.

“Authority to erect 1 No. security barrier to serve Plot L.R. No. 1870/X/106 on Arboretum Drive is hereby granted to you subject to compliance with the following conditions…” the letter, signed on February 17, 2020 by the Nairobi Chief Officer, Roads, Public Works and Transport, Eng. F.N. Karanja, read in part.

The council also acknowledged receiving Sh10,000 inspection fees for the work.

The work was, however, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in Kenya in March this year.

What followed next was government restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

According to Edward Momanyi, the Food and Beverage Manager at Radisson Blu, the Sub-County Security Committee visited the hotel in September and spelt out conditions for erecting the barrier.

“The team, led by Westlands Deputy County Commissioner Mwai Gicheru, visited the area in September. They cited the conditions as a bulletproof guard booth, two armed police officers, and two security guards,” Mr Momanyi told Nation.Africa.

Because of the cost implications, the stakeholders met again on November 11, 2020, at the hotel.

“We invited everyone around this area including State House. We discussed the cost of setting up the barrier, bulletproof guard booth, two armed police officers and two security guards and how it would be shared among ourselves,” Mr Momanyi said.

But council warned that should any member of the public or residents along the Arboretum park lane object to the erection of the barrier, the barrier will be removed.

“That you be required to bind yourselves to the conditional clause of removing the barrier should the Nairobi City County receive reasonable objection to the barrier from one or more area residents or other members of the public,” the letter read in part.

“You shall indemnify the Nairobi City County against any litigation that may arise as a result of these works,” read one of the nine conditions set by Nairobi City County.

“This approval is valid if the works commence and are completed within three months,” it further said.

Arboretum becomes the latest public road to have obstacles.

In September this year, Muthaiga Residents Association mounted a roadblock restricting access to the suburb by boda-boda operators, commercial vehicles and pedestrians.

An email from the association’s secretariat, dated September 22, said the move was due to security reasons.

“No motorbikes and commercial vehicles are allowed to enter Main Muthaiga Road from Oil Libya Plaza, Kiambu Road and from Mini Muthaiga Round-about including house-helps, construction site employees,” read the email signed by Christine Chiriba, for the secretariat.

Further, residents were asked to provide details of their employees, including job card or a letter indicating the name of the staffer, ID number, plot or house number, employer and their contact number.

In 2014, the county assembly moved a motion to remove barriers erected on public roads by the Runda Residents Association.