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Nairobi Should Rethink Its Colonialist Approach to Urban Design

The road being built in Nairobi is for the rich. Even if it will no longer traverse the city’s major park, it’s not the future-thinking urban design that Kenya needs.
People enjoying Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Kenya, just after the beginning of the new year, January 1, 2019.
People enjoying Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Kenya, just after the beginning of the new year, January 1, 2019.Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Following a public furor, at the end of last month, the Kenyan government backed off a plan to build a 17-mile, four-lane expressway through the historic Uhuru Park (Freedom Park), one of the few remaining public parks in Nairobi. The construction of the road will proceed but it will circumvent the park. Nonetheless, the road still has opponents, and with good reason.

Announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta in mid-October, the expressway is expected to cost 62 billion Kenyan shillings ($620 million), with the government directly shouldering a quarter of the cost and the rest extracted over 30 years as a toll charge from motorists using the expressway and paid to the China Road and Bridge Corporation.