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Daily Nation : February 1st 2014
6 | National News AFTERMATH | People whose premises were burnt down say they are not motivated to rebuild The charred ghost houses of Kisumu Some buildings have remained deserted since they were torched at the peak of the 2008 chaos. The ruins are a constant reminder of the losses traders suffered BY ELVIS ONDIEKI @ondiekibogere firstname.lastname@example.org history, which claimed 1,133 lives and displaced more than 650,000 people. While it is everybody’s wish I that memories of the dark days are forgotten, the lakeside town of Kisumu is punctuated with ruins that are a constant reminder of the impact the violence had on businesses. One of them is the Classic Guest House. Located near Lake Victoria’s Dunga Beach, the guest house stands in desolation since demonstrators descended on it and looted everything from utensils to roofing materials. Its wasting walls are gradu- ally being subdued by plants which have found a home in a place that was once the first choice of many accommodation seekers. t has been six years since Kenya witnessed the worst post-election chaos in its The asking price for the land on which it sits is Sh12 million. Hope is fast fading on chances of the building being rehabilitated; its owners say they are not motivated enough to apply for a loan to rebuild it. Not far away, a five-storey building that used to be the Gulfstream Hotel has remained deserted since 2007. It is located on the Awuor-Otieno road, 1.2 kilometres from the Kisumu Governor’s office. From far, the brown wall patterns somehow manage to present a neat facade. But the closer one gets, the more one notices its shattered window-panes, a missing main door whose place is held by a hotchpotch of materials, a partially burnt roof and a litany of eyesores. “It is at this place that some politicians would meet to strategise in the run-up to the 2007 polls. On a good day you couldn’t get a space at its SATURDAY NATION February 1, 2014 TOM OTIENO | NATION A building that housed Punjani Hardware and CopyCat Ltd that was abandoned after it was looted and razed during the 2008 post-election violence. Right: Mr Dahya Mehindi, the managing director of Punjani Electricals. He says his insurer did not adequately compensate him for his loss. Below: The ruins of Classic Hotel at Dunga, Kisumu. parking bay,” said Mr Evans Omollo, a bicycle repairer who has worked in his stall opposite the building since 2006. At the Milimani estate where the building is located, a fourstorey restaurant with facilities almost similar to that of the former Gulfstream Hotel is on sale for Sh25 million. Exactly 1.9 kilometres from the deserted hotel, another ramshackle building stands on the Oginga Odinga Street. It is a one-storey building that used to house Punjani Electricals and the CopyCat offices. The building’s once white walls are now stained with smoke and charred by harsh weather. It is locked to keep the homeless at bay. Four or five trees have found the building’s upper floor conducive and seem to be doing quite well there. Standing at a place where renting a 600 sq feet office space averages Sh120,000 a month, the building is at the heart of the Kisumu central business district, and its positioning cannot fail to catch any observant visitor’s eye. A five-minute drive away, the building that formerly housed Shitul Enterprises on the Odera Street is another grim record of how bad things were after ODM refused to accept the outcome of 2007 presidential election, sparking the violence, when President Mwai Kibaki won against ODM’s Raila Odinga. The three buildings are at Kisumu’s Industrial Area where a 400 sq feet rental office space has an asking price of Sh40,000 a month. So, why haven’t the buildings been rebuilt after six years? Failure by insurers to compensate the owners is the answer of many former proprietors. Mr Dahya Mehindi, the managing director of Punjani Electricals, said his insurer did not compensate him for the Sh15 million worth of property looted from his rented premises since he did not have a relevant policy. “They paid Sh4.5 million. That was a tiny sum compared to what I lost through looting,” he said. Mr Mehindi has since opened another business at a rented premises in the town. “Kisumu is the only home I know. I can’t go anywhere else,” he said. Owners of the former Classic Guest House, who requested anonymity, said their insurer gave them Sh2.4 million “out of sympathy” because the policy they had bought did not cover for civil disobedience and terrorism. They said the amount was not even 10 per cent of the investment they had put into the business. What’s more, they were hit in their business’s two branches: at the Dunga Beach and in Milimani estate. A worse fate befell the owner of Shitul Enterprises, who said he never received a penny from insurers. He said he had learnt the hard way why putting all of one’s eggs in one basket is a bad idea. According to Mr Paul Mwaura, who works with the direct sales unit of UAP Insurance in Kisumu, few insurance companies had a cover for political violence when the post-poll chaos broke. “The first such cover was introduced in Kenya in 2008. However, our company and most other insurers gave out ex-gratia payments to over 15 businesses affected by the chaos,” Mr Mwaura said. The insurance salesman noted that over 100 traders in Kisumu bought the cover ahead of last year’s General Election, but many did not continue financing their policies after the polls. Volatility of region “The cover runs for 12 months and is renewable. Most traders, however, didn’t renew it after the election. It is not an advisable thing to do given the volatility of this region,” he said, adding that the cover is more expensive because of unpredictability. The marketer said the cover catered for political risks, riots and strikes. Mr Joseph Tom Mboya, the Out of compassion they (insurers) paid Sh4.5 million. That was a tiny sum” Mr Dahya Mehindi, a trader whose goods were looted secretary of the Kisumu Central Business District Association, says mistrust and political risks continue to scare investment in the region. “It is a matter of concern that a building like the former Gulfstream Hotel has remained idle for so long,” he said.
January 31st 2014
February 2nd 2014