Tuala and the arrival of the Chinese (III)
2020/10/8 18:43:00 本站

I always wondered how strong the explosives were if they took such measures. That day I went to see the blasting I saw the reason why, when they had finished announcing and evacuating people around they were ready and one of the guys lifted a green flag for going, I'm imagining one of them probably the officials, the Chinese had a gadget with a red button and after seeing the green flag he pressed it and boom! The immediate area was covered in dust in the air and I saw some rocks flying out of the hole that the explosives were set, the ground even slightly tremored. But I hadn't even felt the strength of these explosives until this one day I was home all alone off from work and I was taking a nap in the house, I believe I was in such deep sleep that I was not able to hear the announcements of clearing the area and leaving our houses, later one of the workers said he came and knocked the door and no one answered so he assumed there was no one in the house.


There I was in my 3rd dream and suddenly I woke up by a loud bang and what felt like an earthquake the couch I was napping on moved and the whole house kind of vibrated, this blast was close to my house and I felt it, I was so confused and startled when I woke up. I quickly ran outside to find even dogs barking as they were also startled, when I stepped outside I saw one of the Chinese guy walking just outside our house and when he saw me he turned to one of the workers angrily and I believe started asking why I was there and not told to evacuate, this is when one of the guys said the knocked at the door and no one answered so this was kind of my fault. This blast was so strong that back inside our house a slight crack had formed con our living room wall and outside our verandah. But good thing they had checked the state of the house and when they came back they'd see that the damages and compensation would happen.


The following months became very dramatic, most of the houses that were to be demolished had already been and pieces of lands that had been in that path had also been claimed and the work started. The only problem was the government of Kenya had not yet paid everyone fully for the properties and this is where protests began. The houses and landowners who had not been settled came together and decided they would take matters into their own hands since they had not been fully settled. Their goal was to stop or slow down construction. By stopping the Chinese and the workers from continuing with the construction they would definitely get the attention of the government and get the money fully. So they would block the truck roads with huge rocks so as no work could be done since the trucks carrying equipment were immovable. The workers usually got rid of this problem and continued working, this altercation happened for a whole week, protesters put rock roadblocks and the workers removed them wasting a lot of time there but eventually resuming work but the next day as they headed to work they would find the roads blocked again. After a week the Chinese and the other railway builders started moving around with police officers for protection from the protesters who at this point could come in numbers during working hours and chase the workers away and these would end up in a scuffle between the police and the protesters.


The Chinese officials tried to explain to the protesters that it was not part of their work to compensate the people as it was the government but the protesters were convinced that the only way to get their money was to interfere with the construction and the protests continued. Finally, on this one Friday, the protesters were determined to do their worst. I was leaving the house to get to the shopping center only to see smoke in a distance, when I got closer I saw a large group of people and in front of them, tires blocking the road, tires that were on fire on the other side of this were some police officers and behind the Chinese vehicles and trucks that could not pass. The protesters stood there determined not to move as the black smoke filled the air, I watched from a good distance with a bunch of other locals who were not part of the protest. The altercation took almost 3 hours to end of which by then I had stopped watching and went on with my business but when I came back there were just the remains of burnt tires and no one around.


As I, walked towards home something had changed, I couldn't hear the noises from the tractors digging or the trucks driving around or the workers banging on steel noises that had become normal to us. As I looked around the area where there was always the builder's activity the was not one soul, neither were there any Chinese working vehicles. I thought to myself, maybe the protesters won today, now wait tomorrow to see what they have up their sleeves. The next day again there was no sign of the railway construction.3 days passed and still nothing. Did the Chinese give up on this? Are they tired of all this flight with locals? I bet they have gotten frustrated with this country and its government? Are we going to have the area left this way, with huge holes and piles of rocks everywhere? All these were running through my mind. Later my father informed me that the building of the railway had been halted until the houses and land issues are all sorted. A week passed, a month then 2 months still nothing.


Towards the end of October 2018, we started noticing the Chinese branded trucks coming back slowly day by day increasing in number, and in two weeks by the start of November, the construction was back on meaning the government though very late had finally settled everyone. During this period the work that they were doing looked more intense, there was heavier machinery around, I thought I noticed a higher number of workers, and this was true when I asked around. The Chinese had intensified the building of the railway since the had lost a couple of months with the protests and the two months of a halt of the construction. They were now even working overnight this was not very favorable for us because there was a lot of noise when it was sleeping time.


The estate and neighborhood were not so happy about this and asked that overnight work should be stopped as it causes noise pollution at night and people can't sleep and the Chinese after numerous complaints decided to stop working on heavy and noisy machinery after 10 pm. One day as I was in Nairobi city running some errands, I received a call from home and it was one of my siblings, I could hear the distress in his voice, when I asked what the problem was I almost went cold when he told me there was a huge, black snake in the house. We were all thinking wild animals were in the past since there was a lot of human activity from the railway but not. By the time I was getting home the snake had already been killed and my brothers told me of the story of how the snake even almost bit our youngest sibling. One of the animal experts in the area explained that that particular snake which was a Cobra is rare in this area but the animal was most probably displaced from it's home around the area where the construction was happening and the probably dug through its habitat and it had to move and our kitchen window was open as the cobra was looking for a new home and unfortunately it decided to crawl in.


As 2019 was in the 2nd-month construction of the railway was running smoothly and we could see the railway taking shape, at the shopping center you could even see the Chinese walking into stores walking around the town of Tuala, people were used to them and everyone was all good.  Much new business had sprouted up and some of the roads in Tuala had already been improved because of the moving of the Railway building vehicles all this due to the rise in population brought by the building of the railway by the Chinese company, so amongst the rumors, the one I thought to be true was true the small town of Tuala did improve because of the Chinese. Unfortunately, we had still yet not seen the so-called Karate school. On one particular day in July people were rushing to the railway site to see the railway tracks being laid by a very interesting vehicle machine and it was an amazing site seeing how it's done.


Around mid-August yet again we were graced by a Chinese man and two Kenyan officials at our house, they were going house to house asking and checking for damages caused by the railway construction, and my father who was always keen on following up showed them everything, every single crack that had been caused by the blasting. They finished and left to the next house. By this time the railway had already been finished specifically in our area, Tuala. The many building trucks and lorries and vehicles had disappeared, just a few builders were on-site probably finishing up.


When September came the railway was officially done and we had already seen a test train passing a couple of times with Chinese and Kenyan engineers on it taking notes as it was an open carriage we could see. Bystanders watched in happiness and kids shouted happily seeing a train in their neighborhood. It was in this month also that the compensation money for the damages of the houses came and, on that day, I tell you bars in Tuala were all full.


(The author of this article is Eric Mugenya, a Kenyan and creative artist. He likes writing, music, dancing, and science fiction. He has unique insights into African history and culture. He is currently a signed author of African True Story.)

The Chinese article for reference: