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Nairiobi’s filthy streets teeming with gangs, peddlers

It is late in the afternoon on one of the city streets where gloomy and drowsy looking street children are whiling away time.

They are huddled in a small area next to a busy soda deport – some on the pavement at the Taveta Lane in their muddy and murky clothes.

In the past, garbage-littered streets were a common sight in the city. However, things have changed in some places but deteriorated in others — especially the eastern part of Tom Mboya Street.

Although garbage collection companies have been contracted to clean up the streets, there are some that are still an eyesore and require urgent City Hall attention.

The county Environment executive, Mr Evans Ondieki, is aware that some streets are littered with human waste and garbage. He admits that they are in a sorry state because cleaners cannot access them as a result of security.

“I am planning to set a day to ensure that these areas are cleaned and security enforced,” he said.


At the Globe roundabout on Murang’a Road — street children mostly in their teens and early 20’s —have almost taken over the area.

They harass motorists as well as pedestrians and rob them particularly in the evenings. A tunnel that pedestrians used as a shortcut is now inaccessible. The street families have turned it into one of their dens.

The tunnel has human waste. As  a results of scarcity of public toilets in the CBD, people are forced to relieve themselves in the dark alleys.

Another headache for the county government is the unruliness of Public Service Vehicle crews.

“We want to relocate the matatus and buses from the city centre but lack an alternative site,” says the Transport executive Mohamed Abdullahi.

At Ronald Ngara Street, one affected areas has been turned into a chaotic bus terminus.

The Nairobi County Government had attempted to bring sanity by displacing the buses and matatus. Governor Evans Kidero tried to discourage buses from operating from the area by constructing pedestrians’ footpaths. But the PSVs went to court and got an injunction.

Another messy place is Cross Road, a street that is the terminus for matatus from Nakuru and Nyahururu.

A trader selling her wares by the road said: “See the way the matatus crowd here! If a building happens to go up in flames, the fire brigade cannot access the place.”

Dr Kidero commissioned a Transport and Urban Decongestion Committee in January, which collected views from the public and experts.


One of the recommendations is to relocate matatus, buses, taxis and boda bodas from the centre of the city.

The committee chaired by Prof Marion Mutugi handed over their draft report to the Governor in June. The county boss was supposed to have  released it last month but postponed the event for unexplained reasons.

The question of hawkers is also another issue that City Hall is yet to address. The vendors are increasing day by day. From 5pm, they invade most of the streets in CBD, turning them into market places.

Most of the filthy streets have become havens for drug peddlers and criminals. For instance, Taveta Lane is a narrow alley connecting the busy Latema and Accra roads, which are matatus terminals.

The lane lacks working streetlights, it is dark and creepy at night. Our team visited the lane to establish if it is one of the places where hard drugs such marijuana, cocaine and heroin are sold.

We found street children smoking roll-ups of what looks like cigarettes, while others were having a siesta as they bask in the sun next to a heap of uncollected garbage.

Some appeared intoxicated and too lethargic to stand up. Despite the murk, life was going on as is everything was normal.

Loaders at a nearby soda deport earned their daily bread.


While the rest of the streets around Taveta Lane are clean, this lane is foul-smelling and repugnant.

Raw sewerage discharges from an uncovered manhole – blocking part of the road where passers-by have to jump over.

“These young people are smoking bhang (marijuana), which is sold here,” a hawker says and warns us against taking their photos on noticing our camera.

There is a number of people idling along the lane. I try to approach one of them and after looking at me straight into my eyes, he moves away without saying anything.

“Bhang is sold here but you must understand the language used for them to sell you the stuff,” a tout at Latema Road tells us and was willing to help us buy a roll.

“Take back your cash! They say they cannot trust you,” the told me after I had given him Sh350.

The ugly face of Taveta Lane is an  example of the urban decay some parts of Nairobi are slowly falling into.