Modernism: The Tale of Nairobi’s Glorified Million Shillings Prison Homes


After years of absence from Jamhuri, what one sees on arrival, in the capital city Nairobi, is construction. I am amazed at how many high-rise apartment complexes I see in almost every suburb apart from Kibera. The Chinese are not just building roads they are building high rises. Behind Sarit Center, on the edge of the road that leads to Wangige, there are beautiful high rises.  The problem is driving out.


In Hurringham, the government has improved the road network, especially one road connecting to Waiyaki way. There, the problem is the water. Why anybody should be allowed to build any more in Nairobi without providing water and contributing towards the roads network beats any logic. In Westlands, the roads are the same ones Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s government constructed in the 60s! Some developer built a Mall on Peponi road. They call it Westgate. Then Naku-mart has the Ukay on the corner. Between 3pm and 8pm on a non- rainy day, the traffic is at a standstill!  During the rainy season, Nairobians become blind. They can’t see the road! The characters that constructed the mall and the high rises were never required to also provide a way for the added population to get around! Or required to provide water! It takes over 2 hours to get from Embakassi to down Town! If you are lucky, it takes less than 2 hours but more that an hour and a half.


Driving around the suburbs in Nairobi, I am amazed at the prize of the homes. Two-bedroom apartment going for 5million Ksh. That is about 60,000 US dollars. I wanted to see what they offer. Therefore I went to some complex they have build. This one costs 7million shillings. I am a Floridian therefore I was looking at it from a modern international concept. I was looking for, schools, hospital, water, police, and security in general.  To enter this place, I had to go through a security gate manned by some G4 Security guards. Then I entered into the compound. Here there was another security gate manned by another security company. Then I got almost in the yard to find another security gate. Then I was showed the house. It had chumas on the windows, doors and another chumadoor to the stairs.  I remember a former teacher who was burned alive when he refused to open the door for thugs. He had constructed a fortress that did not have an escape route.


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I went to see my sister in Muthaiga. I waited in my car for the security guard to wake up and open the gate for me. If someone wanted to get me, phew! Not just for me, the owners also have to wait for some character from Samburu hired by some security guard company to open the gate for them. In this case, I wonder who owns the house. The person who lets you in is the owner. In this case, isn’t the Security guard the owner? What is the difference between the owner and a prisoner? The authority to open the gate lies with the guard. He can open for any one. Right?


For me, Kenya will be a modern country, not when the terrain is full of concrete high raises, but when people don’t have to lock themselves up in million shillings prisons. And of-course when they can take a real shower, not karai baths.

Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD), SYR Radio/TV, Director, International Desk.

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