Activists protest plan to cut down sacred tree for new railway station

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The fig tree reportedly earmarked for cutting down to pave way for the construction of a railway station. Image:

Nature lovers have clashed with the government over plans to cut down a 35-year-old famous fig tree in Gitaru, Kiambu.

Kenya Railways is reported to have earmarked the area where the iconic tree stands for an upcoming railway station.

“It is a travesty that the Kenyan government is allowing the felling of the sacred Gitaru Kiambu fig tree for the construction of a railway station. Not only is this a blatant disregard for the government’s own commitment to climate mitigation and conservation of nature, but it also represents a gross violation of the laws governing public consultation and participation,” Wildlife Direct CEO Paula Kahumbu said.

The Mugumo is a rare sacred tree among the Kikuyu that is an evergreen type of fig whose wood is unsuitable for lumber or firewood.

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Known for its size, strength, and power, it is also the tree of Ngai, the Kikuyu God, who chose Mugumo trees as places to inhabit when descending from heaven to commune with the Kikuyu people.

Traditionally, the Kikuyu have used the tree for medicine, fruit, rain catchment, boundary markers, sanctuaries, fodder for cattle, and to hang beehives.

“The community has been left in the dark about the fate of their beloved Mugumo tree, a landmark that has stood for generations,” said Kahumbu.

“This is a clear indication that the government has failed to conduct an adequate environmental and social impact assessment, and has ignored the feedback from the local community,” she said.

Kenya Railways has however insisted that they will not cut down the tree.

“We are not cutting down that tree,” said KR Managing Director Philip Mainga.

This is not the first time environmentalists are clashing with the government over cutting down trees to pave way for mega projects.

In 2020, the Ministry of Transport was forced to alter the design of the Nairobi Expressway after plans to cut down a famous Mugumo tree at Westlands caused international uproar.

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