Battle to reclaim Buru Buru's faded glory

Businesses located right next to apartments and spaces in between in Buruburu Phase 3. PHOTO | IMMACULATE WAIRIMU

In the early ’80s, Buru Buru was an enviable middle-class estate in Nairobi, where many people wished to live, and those already living there were proud to be associated with. The estate was characterised by beautifully lined white maisonettes with orange brick tiles housed in sizable compounds designed in courts, with each compound having a low, neatly trimmed hedge. It was clean, serene and secure.

Built in the ’70s and ’80s, the estate was designed as a middle-income Commonwealth estate whose design was meant to be replicated in other Commonwealth countries in Africa. It was mostly inhabited by business people, government officials, professionals and a few expatriates on short-term assignments in the country.

Located in the midst of the ever-growing Eastlands, Buru Buru gradually started going the way of most estates in the populous area, with haphazardly built extensions coming up every year. This also saw the once beautiful flower hedges replaced with concrete walls.

In the recent past, things have become increasingly bad, what with an upsurge of informal businesses, which have set up unsightly temporary structures on every available foot path near the main road, along routes within the estate and above drains. They go as far as hanging their wares on the walls of people’s houses and even in front of businesses, institutions and churches in a chaotic manner.

Others display their wares along the footpaths near the main road at the shopping centre, making it difficult for the large number of people using the footpaths to move. Heaps of garbage, noise and air pollution, not to mention the huge population comprising residents, hawkers and people in transit to the nearby Umoja estate, have changed the once peaceful and serene estate into a chaotic mess.

The roads are riddled with potholes, and the infrastructure is severely strained. The drainage system is clogged by garbage recklessly thrown by the hawkers, such that when it rains, the roads, and even some houses, get flooded.

The once beautifully lined maisonettes are no longer are no longer the estate’s defining characteristic, as residential and commercial extensions to the buildings, original main house, have transformed it into a veritable concrete jungle, with very few of the houses maintaining their original look.[ATTACH=full]50359[/ATTACH]
[B]Bars in Buruburu extending on the pavement. PHOTO | IMMACULATE WAIRIMU

Both legal and illegal businesses run side by side in Buru Buru, with some businessmen even selling liquefied petroleum gas and petrol within residential buildings.

Besides, the noise from the close to 70 bars operating in the estate makes it impossible for residents to enjoy peace and quiet in their homes, with the music sometimes so loud that it makes the house vibrate. An increase in prostitution, insecurity, animal keeping and water vending are other problems afflicting the once peaceful estate.

So bad has the situation become that recently, the Buru Buru Residents’ Welfare Association(BRWA) approached the city Governor, Dr Evans Kidero, to help them restore the estate to its former glory.

“We have tried to reason with the hawkers, mechanics and even landlords building extensions, to no avail. We are not against people conducting their businesses, but as residents, we have the right to live in good conditions, something that has become impossible because of the many illegal structures built on footpaths, road reserves and above the drainage systems that are changing the face of Buru Buru,” says Mr David Konchella, the association’s chairman.

“I am a resident of Rabai Road Estate, which is surrounded by mushrooming mabati (corrugated iron sheet) houses that have become dens of insecurity and immorality, and are an environmental eyesore. Our environment is turning into a slum, yet I pay rent and taxes for a secure, clean and quiet surrounding,” says Ms Susan Muli.

The major negative changes in Buru Buru began when landlords started building extensions to their houses to rent out.

The politicians are also not helping the situation, as they are encouraging more people whom they believe are potential voters to move to Buru Buru, says Mr Stephen Ndegwa, the executive director, Centre for Climate Change Awareness, who has lived in the estate for 11 years.

Meanwhile, Mr George Nderitu says the value of the houses in the estate have dropped significantly due to the filth and illegal structures.

And Mr Konchella agrees. “We are tired of what is happening in Buru Buru,” he says. “The value of the houses in Buru Buru, especially those that border roads, are falling. The value of our houses are going down so fast that some landlords are selling their houses and moving out of the estate before the values fall further. A three-bedroom main house that was going for Sh16 million two years ago, is now going for Sh14 million, and the value is still dropping.” says Mr Konchella.

Those who have rented out their houses have been equally hard hit

“The rent for a three-bedroom main house was in the range of Sh40,000 to Sh45,000 in 2015. Today, you cannot rent out the same house for more than Sh30,000,” Mr Konchella adds.


Some courts are so run down that there is no difference between them and those in some unplanned estate. Many of the houses need a facelift, but the owners do not care to refurbish them to maintain the decent look of the estate, says Mr Ndegwa.

The turnover of tenants is also very high, as one will live in a house for about three months and move out because of the insecurity and filth. Those living in houses bordering the man roads have to contend with the noise and garbage from hawkers.

Food vendors who prepare githeri throw out the water they strain from the food just where they prepare it near the residences, while the garages operating in the estate leave oil spills everywhere. Worse still, since many of these informal businessmen and women have no toilets, relieve themselves behind the walls of their business “premises”, and this mess is left for the resident living there to contend with, says Mr Duncan Ogweno, who lives in Buru Buru Phase Five.

“There are areas in Buru Buru where one drives through a perpetually stinky environment. The stench only goes away during the rainy season, a time that also causes flooding in some of the houses,” says Mr Raymond Kipchumba, chairman of the management committee of Buru Buru Phase One.

When it comes to renting out houses in Buru Buru, many are the instances where the landlord will get a percentage less in rent than was paid by the previous tenant, says Mr Joseph Ochieng’, the BRWA vice-chair.

In Pioneer estate, there is a house that has become unsellable, says Mr Ochieng’. “When it is advertised and potential tenants come to view it, they promise to come back but never do. They do not even make a rent offer.”

“The house is the first one of a block of houses, and is surrounded by kiosks, and hawkers selling charcoal, vegetables and other food items, and it is pretty obvious that they also relieve themselves near there. The house has been reduced to zero value because of the hawking menace,” says Mr Ochieng’.
[B]A charcoal business sharing a wall with a private house in Buruburu Estate. PHOTO | FILE

Each court in Buru Buru estate has contracted a private garbage collector, who is paid per month. But that is only a partial solution because, while the garbage generated by the residents is disposed of, that generated by hawkers is left strewn all over when they leave after the day’s work since they do not live in Buru Buru.

When it rains, the garbage is swept into the drainage systems and clogs it. As a result, the water meant to go through the drains overflows onto the road and into people’s houses when it rains since its path is blocked. There are even containers that have been transformed into business premises and placed on top of drains, thereby blocking them completely.

“There are residents who have woken up at night during the rainy season to find their furniture floating in rain water that has seeped into their house. There is an entire court of almost 20 houses that were flooded in Phase One during the recent rains, and they had to leave because the flood water made it impossible for them to stay in the house,” says Mr Konchella.

There are residents in Phase One who had to open the front and back doors for the rain water to pass since there was nothing much they could do. “The owners of the houses that flood rarely get any rent because no tenant is willing to live in a house that floods every time it rains,” says Mr Kipchumba.

Then there is the issue of insecurity. Some of the illegal structures and garages serve dens for thieves and prostitutes at night. The situation has become so serious that some residents fear going to the nearby shops after 8.00 pm for fear of being mugged.

There are also thieves who ride motorcycles and snatch people’s shopping bags, while others hide in the illegal structures and pounce on unsuspecting residents. There have even been cases of women being raped in the garages and makeshift structures, says Mr Konchella.

The estate has become a dangerous place for children, as they can no longer walk unaccompanied by an adult, says Mr Ndegwa.

Walking in Buru Buru is practically impossible as the sidewalks have been completely taken up by hawkers, posing a great danger to children using the roads, says the Reverend Paul Machira, a resident.

“When I lived in Buru Buru as a little child in the ’70s and early ’80, it was clean, safe and well managed. I went to school and church without any fear, and we had a playground right next to our home. Garbage was collected regularly every week, and I would like to see this neigbourhood restored to that state,” says Ms Maria Mbeneka, a resident.

Fanya summary meffi ww

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Mimi si mwalimu wako. Soma kama unataka, ukichoka enda choma shule.


great article. Kileleshwa inafika hapa very soon. @pamba kwako kunakujwo very soon. Utakuwa huwezi hata fungua gate.


Problem comes when people clear their mortgages and are no longer bound by the project terms and conditions then the SQ ''s and extensions begin cropping up and the mama mboga slums etc. It happened to umoja, buru and it will certainly happen to akina Greenspan

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buruburu is gone forever. people should just accept and move on.


My hood!

Sad. Some of these new estates will face the same predicament in future.

just like the beauty of a woman…its never coming back to its glory days.

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Huku tiyari birrionarres hawapumui kila mahali ni appartments kwanza hii kileleshwa towers along loitoktok rd mtu akiwa til floor atachungulia statehouse vizuri.


No place irritates me like Buru. I remember my uncle bought a unit when they were pristine new. It was an estate and sight to behold. The current bullshit cannot even be termed an eyesore. Nyeuthi mtu difficult sana!


Kenyans n their peculiar habits. Happened to my dad sides za ngong. You move into a tranquil neighborhood & before u know it slum villages start springing all around u.

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watu wa pipu hatutambui hizi shida

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Sofa huwa munapandisha aje mutiso?

Pipeline is the mother of concrete jungles.

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kwani hujui ile styro ya kufunga sofa na kamba, halafu inavurutwa na wanaume wawili hadi juu


Sasa Buru wakiteta umo ama pipu watadu? Kubalini matokeo priss

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True but at least thats a distance away, Mombasa State House was worse, until that apartment block coming up near it was demolished.

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Mwiba wa kujidunga, all those businesses and filth are owned by the same residents.
They should have stood up earlier and defined how to put up extensions .
The problem at hand is a Kenyan problem, look around and you’ll notice we living in a big slum.
Rongai, being the closest example or,is it the furthest .
Lack of principles and rule of law. Kila mtu mjuaji, hapo ndio ujaji imetufikisha.
Na bado vile kunaenda there’s no hope.
Tembea town na hawkers to confirm.
We live in a failed state, like it or not it is what it is.


Birrionarres wamehama kutoka kile wameenda lavington.mahali kuna controlled development kama ni gorofa unataka unajenga town house.