A few years back, the now-popular Utawala estate in Nairobi looked like an area that would take ages to open up.
One resident, James Omari, recounts how in the year 2014, he would walk from the Coca-Cola factory opposite the airport to his house in Githunguri as this was the last point one would access a public road.
‘After alighting the bus next to the Coca-Cola factory, I would walk the entire 10 kilometres to the house through the airport. Sometimes I would hear the sound of hyenas from the police barracks training ground bordering the airport’’.
It is because of the remoteness of the estate that looked so close, yet so far from town because of lack of access roads in and out of the estate, that the Maasai community found this to be a perfect settlement area. This, coupled with the vast land for pasture, made the area convenient.
A few years fast forward, with the construction of the bypasses, Utawala has grown fast, catching most of the herders by surprise as Nairobi residents buy land in huge quantities with landlord’s fast-developing rental buildings.
Namelok, a Maasai herder in Utawala, laments that the fast rise in population is the reason the majority of them have been pushed out of the estate.
‘’We will have to move now because we don’t even have a place for our animals now. It was not like this five years ago.’’
Driving through the estate, especially the new Astrol area, you are greeted with a highly contrasting picture of Maasai shanties among the high rise apartments, with the newly paved roads leaving drivers and pedestrians weaving their way through the herds.
Namelok says that he is already making plans to move out of the estate in a year because the construction of the Eastern bypass Highway will get more people moving into the estate.