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Riots as parents try to evict ‘grabber’ from city school

Rival youths on Sunday clashed at Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School in Nairobi’s Shauri Moyo estate during a protest against an alleged grabbing of part of the institution’s land.

Parents of the 460 girls who learn at the school had planned to conduct a demonstration against a private developer they accuse of grabbing one acre of the land and turning it into a garage.

However, youths from Shauri Moyo estate climbed over the locked school gate and battled with another group alleged to have been hired by the grabber to ward off demonstrators.

Police officers arrived and engaged in running battles with the youths.

Some 150 students were in classrooms during the skirmishes, in which journalists were roughed up.

GRABBED A JOURNALIST

Some youths grabbed a photojournalist who was taking cover by a container at the garage and locked him inside.

“Why are you taking pictures of this?” asked one who was wielding a knife.

Another grabbed the journalist’s camera and reached into his pockets for money and phones, while another ransacked his bag.

“We want your phones, money and that camera,” said one, as another shouted, “Just stab them!”

The land in dispute is adjacent to the school’s kitchen. It is now hosts long distance trucks, containers and empty fuel tanks.

The parents claim it was taken over by a developer and turned into a garage.

More than 10 letters have been exchanged between the school and the Nairobi City County to resolve the dispute, to no avail.

“The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission last year wrote to the chief valuer to facilitate the fencing of the land but to date, nothing has happened,” said Ms Esther Angwenyi, the school’s principal.

While she said that the land was allocated to the school for use as an additional space, some individuals claim it was leased to them.

CONSTRUCT DORMITORIES

“This land was given to the school by the Ministry of Lands for the expansion of the school. We had plans to construct dormitories for the girls on that land,” said Ms Angwenyi.

Speaking on behalf of the new owner, Mr Musa Odero said the school had leased the land to them almost 10 years ago and they turned it into a garage.

“It’s 10 years now since we came to this land, which we leased from the school. We even have a court order barring the school from evicting us,” said Mr Odero.

The dispute began last Friday when the school brought in auctioneers to evict the owners of the garage.

“We got a court order on Friday to evict the garage owners from that land. To execute that, we got auctioneers to carry out the exercise and afterwards we put a temporary fence around the area,” Ms Angwenyi said.

An officer from Shauri Moyo Police Station said although the school had a court order to evict the alleged grabbers, the owners of the garage had obtained a counter order stopping the eviction.

“As it stands, there are four directors of this land. While we were overseeing the eviction with one of them, the other three ran to the court to stop the process,” said the officer.

Recently, an investor was accused of grabbing the playground at a Lang’ata Primary School, Nairobi.

As authorities investigate the claims, the 460 girls at Our Lady of Mercy Girls’ Secondary School in Shauri Moyo will be studying under conditions that are far from ideal, including pollution from fumes from the garage.