It’s roughly 50 years since Buruburu estate was first established.
The estate borrowed its magnificent model from the United Kingdom.
The land, where Buruburu sits today, was initially part of an expansive sisal farm, a large extension that covered areas around where Umoja estate sits today, and Donholm.
Today, the once magnificent estate lies in near ‘ruin’. It’s hardly recognisable, especially to those who saw its first glory.
It’s once rich feeder roads opening up every vain of the estate have over time been ravaged by the vagaries of weather – and the unforgiving human hand.
Patches of green – and malnourished trees dotting open spaces are the only remaining proof that this was once a neighbourhood associated with the who is who.
Matatus and bodaboda riders have ‘hijacked’ the transportation sector.
The estate – based on its original plan – was to be served by a dedicated town bus service and a railway line (the one you see counting days outside the estate).
Indeed, a lot has changed in the estate – taking away its old glory – and leaving behind a current state of chaos.
The idea of a buruburu estate was first conceived in the early 1970s.
Phase One was built in 1974 – followed by Phase Two in 1975.
This happened under the tutelage of then-Nairobi Mayor Nathan Kahara – representing the then-Nairobi City Council.
Umoja, Outering and Buruburu
The project was done in conjunction with the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) – who breathed a lot of life into the idea.
The new estate was named Buruburu – and enclaved at the furthest end of the town – beyond which there was no human existence.
“There was no life beyond Buruburu estate save for an expansive sisal plantation covering the areas where Umoja, Outering and Donholm estates sit today,” says researcher and historian Bethuel Oduo.
The expansive sisal fields where Buruburu estate sits today was a playground for bulbul birds.
Some schools of thought argue that it was here that Buruburu got its name – as residents struggled with proper articulation of the bird’s name (bulbul).
There are other varied explanations – and so the jury is still out.
Buruburu Phase 1 estate was designed and built under the Tenant Purchase Scheme (TPS) – where one would pay rent to own.
“A unit would cost in the regions of Ksh800,000 back in the late 1970s and targeted Nairobians who had just graduated from University and were beginning to take up jobs left by the colonizers,” said Oduo.
Construction of Buruburu
The development saw the construction of Buruburu Phase 1, 2 3, 4 and 5 (facing Jogoo Road side) – and later Phase 5 Annex (facing Kariobangi South).
The estate was modelled after the Typical Council Housing Model in the UK – where you had mansionette served by a common courtyard. King Charles, then a Prince, visited the estate in 1985, see.
The buildings were a single storied mansionette with open spaces for bungalows.
To go with the estate was the shopping mall, which people christened mausoleum, town designated buses to serve the estate residents, open spaces dedicated for social amenities like hospitals, schools and a police station.
The many public primary and secondary schools became favorite for the emerging middle class. The first inhabitants or buyers of the new Buruburu estate came from the nearby Jericho estate.
Sharing the rent
These were Nairobi’s emerging middle class – and this to them was an upgrade. It was common to find university graduates sharing a three-bedroom house; sharing the rent.
This was the only estate learned Kenyans – who were just stepping out of the university could live.
“Those who wanted to date ‘good girls’ – had to visit Buruburu,” says Festus Ochieng – who grew up in Bahati.
“The girls were posh and high-end, you couldn’t just show up at a homestead asking to take their daughter out,” he says with a smile – adding that things must have loosened up these days.
Many say that a lot has changed – and for the worst. The once beautiful estate has been ‘violated’. Mechanics and kiosks have taken over walkways, and clean water remains a rumour.
Insecurity is rife – with many cases of muggings and killings being reported. The most recent being the shooting of four young men inside their car on December 24, 2023.
Many, however, still believe that the good old days can still come back only if good order is restored.
Covering news about Eastlands especially Umoja, Kayole and Buruburu estates