THEN (LEFT): A Nairobi City County government worker tends to grass planted along Uhuru Highway in this photo taken in 2015. NOW (RIGHT): What is left of the grass two years down the line. PHOTOS | FILE and FRANCIS NDERITUTHEN (LEFT): A Nairobi City County government worker tends to grass planted along Uhuru Highway in this photo taken in 2015. NOW (RIGHT): What is left of the grass two years down the line. PHOTOS | FILE and FRANCIS NDERITU
By KEVINE NAMACHANJA

Kidero grass! Kidero grass! Kidero grass! The much discussed, broadcasted and published story by both local and international media houses, was a beautification program initiated by Nairobi city county Governor Dr Evans Kidero.

The project involved landscaping along Mombasa road, Uhuru Highway and Waiyaki way, in an attempt to beautify Nairobi city ahead of the visit by former US President Barrack Obama to Kenya in 2015.

In what many interpreted as an attempt to impress the US president, the grass became a subject of ridicule to the governor for failing to grow on time for President Obama’s visit.

The “Kidero grass” quickly became a subject of public discussion across social media platforms. It caught the attention of the local artistes, some of whom composed songs on Kidero grass.

The beautification program went as far as winning the best landscape Architectural Association of Kenya Excellence Awards in 2016.

BUTT OF JOKES

Despite costing the city county government over Sh45 million, the grass became the butt of jokes as it wilted under the scorching sun in spite of the workers attempts to keep it green.

The debate on the grass raged on that Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) caught on to the impracticality and soon after #KideroGrass was trending on social media.

The jokes, memes and mockery around the hashtag went on for days and left everyone in stitches. President Kenyatta weighed in and consoled the Governor tongue-in-cheek: “Hon Kidero, the Governor of Nairobi, don’t worry. Plant it. It will grow!”

What is left of an estimated Sh45million beautification project around the city is dried and dug out grass along Uhuru Highway. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

What is left of an estimated Sh45million beautification project around the city is dried and dug out grass along Uhuru Highway. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

To the critics’ surprise, the grass spruced up later so massively into beautiful lawns that compelled the city county officials to form a team popularly known as “green army”, which underwent an extensive training in law enforcement to protect the grass from damage by the public.

The team was given powers to arrest and hand over anyone found littering within the CBD, stepping on the grass or talking on their phones while crossing the road.

Those arraigned in court were charged at least Sh2,000 in revised city by-laws, a move that saw city county Government recover the money invested on the project and made a massive profit.

NEGLECTED

However, two years down the line, the much talk about beautification program has become a shadow of its former glorified Kidero grass!

The grass has been neglected and the strict order stopping the public from stepping on the grass has been completely ignored.

Hawkers, demonstrators, pedestrians, boda boda operators and motorists have littered the once beautiful lawns and the most treasured grass is drying up.

What is left of an estimated Sh45million beautification project around the city is dried and dug out grass along Uhuru Highway. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

What is left of an estimated Sh45million beautification project around the city is dried and dug out grass along Uhuru Highway. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

Foot paths have been created on the lawns, and unwanted plastic refuse, tissue paper and facial wipes, bus tickets and other garbage have been littered all over the place.

The “green army” team that once terrorized city residents has since disappeared into thin air and the beautiful lawns and well-made flower beds have turned into campaigning grounds for politicians and their supporters.

Reached for comment, Dr Robert Ayisi, the county chief of staff said: “I am out of the office at the moment and I don’t think I will comment on the issue as I like to deal with journalists face to face.”