Kenya: Sonko Accuses City Planners of ‘Causing More Deaths Than Terrorists’

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has turned the heat on the national association of planners to tame errant members, accusing them of causing more deaths than terrorists.

This comes after the Kenya Institute of Planners (KIP) – the umbrella body of professional planners in Kenya – had last month accused City Hall of unnecessary delays in the processing of development applications alleging undue political interference.

The institute faulted the county government for failing to provide approval of the development permissions for the past four months

However, Sonko has blamed the members of the organisation for contributing to the “rot and filth” at City Hall’s Urban Planning Department.

“It goes without saying that members of your professional body have been responsible for more deaths than terrorists in a span of five years in Nairobi under your watch, Sonko said.

Governor Sonko pointed out that between June, 2014 and September 30, 2019; a total of 110 Kenyans have lost their lives and scores injured in 11 tragedies involving collapsed buildings in Nairobi compared to 21 deaths as a result of terrorist attacks in the capital city during the same period.

The deaths, injuries and destruction of properties, according to the governor, were as a result of the approvals issued to substandard buildings and other structures given by your unscrupulous members working at the Urban Planning Department.

The issuance of the approvals allegedly happened under the watch of suspended Urban Planning chief officer Justus Kathenge, a member of KIP, who had risen from a director of Urban Planning which he was appointed to in 2014.

NEGLIGENCE

Mr Sonko added that Mr Kathenge was implicated by a 2017 report of the Ombudsman in the Huruma tragedy where 52 people died for negligence and failure to enforce compliance.

KIP chairman Dr Lawrence Esho had stated that undue political pressure on officials at the planning department and frequent interference with an electronic platform the county had transitioned to in processing of the development applications had hampered the seamless process of receiving and processing of the same subsequently rendering inefficient, the entire planning and development control system.

“The attendant lack of capacity, and inefficiencies in the plan approval and enforcement system leaves land owners with no alternative but to circumvent these critical processes which in turn frustrates the quest for orderly and sustainable development with the city,” read in part the petition by Dr Esho dated September 30.

The Institute had also raised issues with the suspension of over 10 officials from the department saying that the vacuum created by irregular suspension of directors will serve to compound the aforementioned challenges involving stalled plan approval of development permissions process.

However, the City Hall boss countered stating that the suspended officers play no role in development control but maintained that he will not relent in his efforts to clean-up the mess at the department and restore sanity in the building sector in Nairobi.

“I will never permit the shenanigans that have characterised the department, or any other, to continue under my watch, endangering the lives of Nairobi residents while at the same time flouting zoning policies with impunity to end up with the mess that the city is today,” said Sonko.

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