Kaloleni, where the mighty once lived
Popularly known as Ololo, Kaloleni estate dates back to the colonial era.
There is a lot about this estate which famous personalities such as Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya and former Ugandan President Milton Obote have in common.
They all convened social and political meetings there.
Resident Moses Ouma said Mboya lived in a two-roomed house in Kaloleni Z1 near City Stadium.
“This is a very important estate to us. We are proud to be associated with big names in this country and beyond. The estate was also home to Barack Obama Senior when he returned from abroad,” he said.
Other notable people who stayed in Kaloleni include former Vice-President Kijana Wamalwa widow’s Yvonne, former Vice-President Moody Awori and the first African mayor of Nairobi Charles Rubia.
Former Cabinet minister Fred Gumo and the late business tycoon and Member of Parliament Gerishon Kirima also lived there.
Mary Wambui who has lived in the estate since the late 70s said Kaloleni was cosmopolitan.
“Unlike Bahati which was predominantly Kikuyu because the colonialists wanted to segregate them, Kaloleni was cosmopolitan with a bias to western Kenya immigrants,” she said.
An official at the Kaloleni Estate Residents Association Edward Nero said the estate was once renowned for its busaa (traditional brew) trade, especially the Kaloleni Public Bar, now renamed Wood Park.
“This was an estate that was the envy of many. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth went there to open a clinic and that the late Obote was once the president of the Kaloleni Estate Residents Association? This is definitely a place that is rich in history and culture,” said Nero.
Ouma recalled that Kaloleni was the estate where football was nurtured.
“The football of yesteryear in Kaloleni was the best. In the 80s and early 90s, we had great teams like Green Eagles Maulanda, Racimianto, Acapulco, Olympia, Black Mamba and Kaloleni Welfare,” said Ouma.
He added that the footballers were passionate and enjoyed the sport.
He recalled the likes of the late Mark Obibo, Joseph Weke, Father Okoyo Paplaga, Katele, Joseph Adach, the late coach Ojes, Kadanse Mudanda and Ambesh Kapelo, who were estate legends.
Kenn Okaka who once lived in the estate remembered the 1989 Kenya Air Force plane crash.
“It was on a Saturday morning. Some of my siblings had gone to attend a Coca-Cola tournament at Nyayo stadium. I was in the house feeding rabbits when I saw the giant thing coming down. It was big news,” Okaka said.
Last year, the residents celebrated the estate’s 70th anniversary.
Close to Kaloleni is another renowned estate, Makongeni, where Kenya Railways middle-level workers lived during the early 1970s and continue to occupy to date. The outstanding thing about Makongeni were the compounds.
The freshly-painted houses had neat hedges and well-tended flowerbeds stood out among many and were at one point some of the most sought after living quarters in the country.
But years of mismanagement saw operations at the Kenya Railways Corporation grind to a halt and so did the housing projects.
Stephen Mutuku, in his late 70s worked for the corporation for more than 30 years.
This was when one’s colour determined which part of the city one would live in.
“It was a government policy that one’s colour and rank at the corporation determined where they lived in Nairobi. I was a mid-level employee and so I was given a house in Makongeni,” he said.
Mutuku added that the company wanted its workers, especially those who could be recalled to work during emergencies, to live closer to the office and railway line.
“The low cadre employees who worked on the railway line lived in Muthurwa while the signal operators and drivers lived in Land Mawe and Makongeni estates. Those in the top-level management who were mostly Europeans occupied spacious homes in Hurlingham, Upper Hill and Parklands,” added Mutuku.
Housing was free but employees staying in estates such as Makongeni were required to foot their water and electricity bills.
The estate was well maintained as there were staff to clean the communal bathrooms and toilets.
The drainage system was functional and there was a superintendent to ensure that it was well maintained.
Unlike the current sorry state of the houses, the buildings then were painted and repairs of broken window panes and doors made as soon as the occupant filed a report with the maintenance department.
The flowerbeds and driveways are now non-existent as they have been swallowed up by kiosks and other structures.
Currently, Kaloleni is in shambles with insecurity and drainage being the residents greatest concerns. Robbery then was almost unheard of in the railway quarters given the stringent security checks and screening of all visitors.
Late last year, it was agreed that the estate be demolished to pave way for a modern estate.
The Kenya Railways Staff Retirement Benefit Pension Scheme is planning to build a Sh83 billion estate that will comprise maisonettes, apartments, shops, offices, schools and other social amenities on 141 acres. Nothing much has been heard of the project since.
For both Kaloleni and Makongeni, the deplorable sanitation and insecurity that have plagued them have dashed the dreams of thousands who had grown to love them as their little havens.