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Karen residents face off with developer, students over construction of hostels – VIDEO

By Joseph Ndunda November 13th, 2020 2 min read

A dispute has erupted between a section of residents of the posh Karen estate and a developer who is planning to put up a hostel facility in the area after area university students sided with the developer during a stakeholders’ meeting at the Kenya School of Law.

The residents, mainly land owners in the area, are up in arms against the project claiming Karen estate is a low density population settlement and putting up the hostels will cause depreciation of their land value.

The Karen land owners also raised concerns over the influx of students which they are apprehensive will cause chaos in case of protests and general truancy.

The public participation meeting organised by the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) almost turned ugly as the group of residents and students differed publicly forcing the residents to walk out in protest.

The students mounted pressure on the residents to allow the company to put up the living facilities for students following the existing legal frameworks.

But former PS Romano Kiome said they will not allow the construction of the hostels in the area because of putting pressure on social infrastructure.

 Spruce Limited, the developer of Qwetu and Kijani Hostels, is preparing to build a facility along Bongani East road near the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) to house around 3,000 students.

The company has recvied backing from the more than seven public and private universities in the area and their students.

The varsities include CUEA, which sold the land to the company, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Karen Campus, Cooperative University, Tanganza University College, Multi Media University, Africa International University and Africa Nazarene University.

The institutions have a student population of more than 30,000 and student leaders said more than 90 percent of their comrades are forced to reside in distant estates due to lack of accommodation in the campuses which have limited hostels, and unaffordability of houses in the neighborhood.

The area also has several colleges including the Kenya Medical Training College, Marists International college and Kenya Wildlife Service training college.

Cooperative University student leader Brian Obiero said the university had close to 11,000 students but only slightly over 500 can be accommodated inside the institutions.

“Students are suffering. There are no hostels around and most are forced to rent in neighboring slums or in Rongai which is far. This has exposed us to dangers of crime and some have been raped and robbed while walking home,” Obiero said.

“We have unanimously agreed that a taskforce will be formed to ensure that these hostels are built and students are safe. I’m ready to stand by my students who have been victims of insecurity in Gataka slums – having their belongings stolen.”

MMU student Jenifer Mukami said Karen land owners had a bad perception of students, saying her institution had 7,000 students and only 3,000 are accommodated inside the facility and the number was cut by more than half in compliance with government guidelines for prevention of Covid- 19 spread.

They appealed to the land owners to allow the construction of the hostels and have the purported students’ misconduct dealt with by law enforcers.

The Spruce is planning to put up the facility which will have a study hall, sitting area and shopping facilities to provide students with a conducive learning environment while staying a walking distance from their universities.