Outrage As Nairobi Plans To Charge For Uhuru Park Entry

The Nairobi County Government is poised to take control of Uhuru Park and Central Park recreation centers upon the conclusion of extensive renovation works. The gates open soon, but not for free. This significant development was announced by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale during a visit to the parks, accompanied by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja.

The official handover ceremony is expected to be held before the end of 2023, aligning perfectly with the upcoming Nairobi Festival week. Duale emphasized that the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), which have been dedicatedly restoring these iconic venues over the past two years, are in the final stages of their efforts.

“Save for a few finishing touches, the facilities are ready to be handed over to the County Government of Nairobi, and the public will soon have access to their modern amenities,” Duale declared, underlining the government’s commitment to serving its people.

During his visit, Duale was joined by Defence PS Mr. Patrick Mariru, Lt Gen Jonah Mwangi, the VCDF, Brig Titus Sokobe, the Chief of Infrastructure in the Defence Headquarters, and other defense officials.

These parks had been inaccessible to the public since February 2021 under the Nairobi Metropolitan Services. The extensive renovation project, overseen by the KDF, spanned over two years, with the parks reopening their gates in December 2022 only briefly during the grand inauguration of the Nairobi Festival.

The revitalized parks now feature outdoor libraries, contemporary shades, and even skating rinks at Central Park. Visitors can savor the presence of restaurants in Uhuru Park.

Before the renovations, these parks were cherished for their open accessibility, serving as a gathering place for budget-conscious families on weekends, a haven for couples, a spot for leisure seekers, and the backdrop for numerous significant opposition rallies. The decision to charge an entrance fee to Uhuru Park has sparked outrage and dismay among activists and citizens alike.

Public Intellectual Mwalimu Wandia Njoya took to Twitter, saying, “Any hope Wangari Maathai Foundation can speak up for Uhuru Park? Prof Wangari fought for that park.” She went on to express her displeasure at the potential infringement on the legacy of the late Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai, who had risked her life to protect the park during the years of the Moi regime.

Activist Boniface Mwangi recalled a promise made by the city governor, Johnson Sakaja, on September 27, 2022: “Members of the public will access Uhuru and Central parks for free.” He asserted, “Uhuru Park should have zero entry fees!” calling out @HonAdenDuale.

Activist BravinYuri joined the chorus of discontent, observing a concerning trend where green spaces that were once freely accessible are now charging fees. He lamented, “We do not have any green public space where we can just relax and think about life for free in Nairobi. Arboretum is charged, Uhuru Park is charged, City Park, ndio hio, hadi Jevanjee walileta rates. Kenya!”

Constitutional activist Jerotich Sei expressed her disappointment, terming the development as sad and heartbreaking. She tweeted, “#AmKenyan For those of us who grew up looking forward to Sunday ‘outings’ to Uhuru Park, it breaks our heart to see that the poor of Nairobi will not enjoy the so-called ‘improved’ Park. They shut the people out and now want to open it for a fee? @SakajaJohnson THIS IS A SHAME!”

James Wanjeri took a dig at Sakaja’s ‘Make Nairobi Work’ slogan, insisting that the right to access the park for free should be fiercely defended: “We should always fight for Uhuru Park because any government that comes in will always try to start some nonsense. Public park renovated with public funds will now require an entrance fee? Haiwork!”

A user called Asaria employed humor to drive home a point, remarking, “It’s called Uhuru park but it’s not free?? Damn they better change that name cause Uhuru has a lot to do with being free.”