Eviction of the Aoko Road Traders, Nairobi, Kenya

by James Tayler

By Louise Cobbett, SDI Secretariat 

On the 4th of November 09, the Nairobi City Council served the Aoko Road Traders of Nairobi with a 48-hour notice of eviction, however by midnight of the 5th of November the bulldozers arrived. There were a total of 797 trading shacks demolished, with 297 being part of a Pamoja Trust enumeration. Aoko road is situated in an area known as South B in the city of Nairobi. The road sits behind the middle income housing of South B and the front of the Mukuru Fuata Nyayo and Kayaba slums. The reasons given for the eviction was that the traders were based on top of road reserves, and the Council wanted to construct the roads
However, the traders- along with the Pamoja Trust- had taken part in negotiations with the municipality and a local  bank to develop trading stalls along Aoko that would allow for uninhibited passage of the road. . The negotiation had included an enumeration and the organization of the traders into a community saving scheme. 
By the end of October an agreement had been reached that concluded that as long as the roadside traders allowed the municipality to construct the road, and after the construction, agree to standardized stalls – then there would be no problem from either side.

Upon receiving the eviction notices, the Aoko traders went to the Deputy Mayor in an effort to stop the planned action. They met with the Deputy Mayor at 7 pm on the 4th of November and left the offices with the assurance that the evictions were to be stopped. However, by midnight the stalls were being demolished. 
Though the traders did not physically resist the demolition they stood, holding banners condemning the actions in hope that the local media would appear at the scene. The traders were subsequently arrested and charged with illegal assembly and committing acts that would inspire further acts of violence.

On the 6th of November six traders, including two women were arraigned in court. All the arrested were members of the community saving scheme. Working closely with a local political activist, Esther Waithera and Pamoja Trust, the traders negotiated with court officers to reduce the charge to illegal assembly and “non violent chanting”. The Narc Political Party, which Ms Waithera represents provided a lawyer

The traders pled not guilty and the hearing of the case was set for January 2010. Bail for each of the six was set at Ksh 5000 (US$ 70). The fifty or so traders attending court quickly raised Ksh 10,000 and were assisted by Ms Waithera with 20,000. Bail was posted successfully and the six walked out to a warm but quiet reception. The traders were fearful of being re- arrested for another “illegal assembly”. 
On the 9th of November, Pamoja Trust spoke with the deputy mayor, who explained that the demolition appeared to be backed by higher political forces. A date has been set with the deputy mayor on the 11th of November to discuss what happens next. .