By Adieri Mulaa
‘Bottom Line’ is a sprawling shanty village in Nairobi’s Westlands area and ancestral home to many residents of Kangemi suburb in the capital city.
A densely populated habitat with thousands of registered voters, Bottom Line village lacks basic infrastructure which is supposed to be provided by the national government, including water, electricity and roads.
There is no street lighting in the entire area such that when night falls, security of the residents becomes highly compromised. It is left to God’s mercy.
Kangemi is home to Nairobi City gubernatorial aspirant Richard Ngatia, the Chamber president and accomplished business man.
On the night of Monday August 4, 2022, families in Bottom Line were woken up by commotions and screams of neighbours calling out fire..fire.
As the name conspicuously connotes, Bottom Line village lies on the periphery of the leafy up market Lavington suburb.
Alice Wambui Wainaina, a member of one of the families whose homesteads were were razed down by the fierce inferno said nothing was salvaged from their houses.
Fire brigade responders came from a far. Many shanties were already completely razed to the ground by the night inferno, which left the owners and tenants homeless.
Residents of Bottom Line village say they lack community disaster management volunteers who could have responded quickly to the fire incident before government agencies arrived.
They lamented that scarcity of water was a major challenge in the shanty village.
“We buy water on daily basis for domestic use. On the fateful night of the fire, we did not have any water. We were helpless and in total desperation”, said Rosemary Wanjiru Mbugua, one of the fire victims.
Corrugated iron sheets were reduced to scrap metal while all flammable properties were burnt to ashes.
Wanjiru told the media she has lived in Bottom Line since she got married over thirty years ago.
“Our main problems here in Bottom Line are water, electricity and roads. We could have tried to put out the fire before fire engines arrived but we have not had water for three weeks”, Wanjiru lamented.
The residents pointed fingers at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company over scarcity of water.
“If we had water, we could have used it to contain the fire from spreading fast to consume our houses and properties”, Wanjiru explained.
Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company did not respond to enquiry about the residents’ complaints regarding scarcity of water.
A WhatsApp message to the company Managing Director, Eng Nahashon Muguna went answered.
“We need a fire station nearby, preferably at the former Kangemi cemetery site. We are told the land has been set aside for a fire station” Wanjiru says.
Irene Wambui Mwaura, also resident of Bottom Line said her grandmother was among those who were affected by the fire. However, she had kind words of praise for Ngatia who came in handy for the fire victims.
Ngatia has donated food stuffs and beddings and other basic needs to the affected families. He also offered to pay for them one month rent while other solutions were being sought.
The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry president promised the residents of Bottom Line village that Nairobi Metropolitan Services would intervene to install street lights.
Street lighting will improve security situation in the densely populated area. Lighting would also be useful in circumstances that call for emergency responders, Ngatia noted.
“Kangemi is special to me. It is the place I was born and raised. Kangemi defines my childhood memories and you are my parents, brothers and sisters, teachers, friends and my extended family”, Ngatia told the families.
Ngatia says that for a long time, the capital city has been governed by leaders who could not blend politics with business growth for economic prosperity and job creation.
He promises to have well equipped fire stations in strategic locations in the city suburbs if he is elected governor of Nairobi City in the August 9 General Election.
The Chamber president has also promised to ensure there was constant flow of tap water in all houses, saying the water company had the capacity.
Kenya National Fire Brigades Association (KENFIBA) Secretary General Omollo Liech said there was urgent need for county governments to train volunteer firefighters to be based in the sub – counties.
Mr Liech says qualified volunteer firefighters would be awarded certificates and registered with their respective county governments.
“Trained volunteer firefighters will be on standby as first responders incase of emergencies”, he said.