Kenyan president tells Chinese builder to divert $600m motorway to save sacred fig tree

Campaigners declared victory yesterday after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta decreed that a century-old fig tree in the capital Nairobi must not be moved, as was planned, to make way for the $600m elevated Nairobi Expressway now under construction.

City residents are concerned at the number of trees being felled for the 27-km tolled highway linking Nairobi’s downtown to Kenyatta International Airport, which is being financed and built by China Roads and Bridge Corporation (CRBC). 

Tall as a four-story building, and considered sacred by Kenya’s largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, the tree on Waiyaki Way was to be uprooted and moved to make way for a pillar supporting the elevated road.

But when the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) announced that plan on 1 October, a protest movement began among people angry at the disappearance of green spaces in the city, and the tree became a beacon of their concern.

A rally took place to protect the tree on 31 October.

A rally took place to protect the tree on 31 October (From the Twitter feed of Kenyan environmental campaigner, Elizabeth Wathuti)

Yesterday, Major General Mohammed Badi, director general of Nairobi Metropolitan Services, called a press conference to relay the presidential decree ordering the tree to be left alone, and to announce the creation of more green spaces.

"We have plans in place to create new neighbourhood parks within our residential estates for the community to enjoy recreational spaces close to their homes," he said.

With the decree, CRBC and the Kenya National Highways Authority have agreed to reroute the road, reports Reuters.

"This particular fig tree is just a symbol of the bigger picture of what we are asking for, we want a green and clean city, and clean Kenya," said Kenyan environmental campaigner, Elizabeth Wathuti.

Top image: Tall as a four-story building, the tree is considered sacred by Kenya’s largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu (From the Facebook page of Nairobi Metropolitan Services)

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  1. This sacred tree is worth more than all the roads on earth! We must recognize the fact that humans are here on earth to make things better for all living things. It is our duty and privilege to care for this beautiful planet and enhance its beauty through our righteous actions.

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