Photo courtesy of ugandaonline.net
By National Executive Council (NEC), National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU)
The following letter was submitted as an OpEd to the Daily Monitor in Uganda following a tragic shooting during an eviction by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in Kampala in January 2012.
Many opinion pieces in this newspaper have, rightfully, condemned the violence that accompanied the recent eviction by KCCA of kiosks in Port Bell. They have lamented the dysfunctional legal system that allowed Agaba to be released on bond; the trigger-happy security operative; and KCCA’s heavy-handed approach when it comes to dealing with the deprived.
Like the rest of you, we watched in horror the sickening footage of the Port Bell eviction and shuddered at every gunshot. For too many years we have witnessed brutality in the name of development as community members in places such as Loco, Kisenyi, and Nakawa have been not only stripped of their homes and livelihoods, but also in some tragic instances their lives.
Despite wishing to add our voice to those condemning the operation we also wish to take the discussion a step forward by suggesting a way to ensure such events do not occur again.
As the governing body of a national urban poor organization – the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda – which is linked to over 30 such federations around the world, we can categorically state: there is another way.
We fully accept that sometimes evictions are necessary. Sometimes they are necessary to protect residents from hazards, sometimes in the name of infrastructural development, and sometimes to protect the environment. Throughout the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network to which we belong, community-based organizations of the urban poor have been involved in this process to ensure that those affected understand the process, that resettlement options are presented, and that, where appropriate, adequate compensation is granted.
In Kenya, our affiliate is working with the government to relocate over 10,000 families from along the country’s railways; our Indian affiliate is assisting the government with the resettlement of 25,000 pavement dwellers and has already helped resettle about 14,000 families from along their railways; in Tanzania our affiliate federation has assisted the relocation of tenants from the land upon which Dar es Salaam’s port is being expanded; and in Ghana our affiliate federation is working with the Accra Municipal Authority to resettle around 3,000 residents from vulnerable wetlands.
How do they do this? The federations use tried and tested tools such as enumeration, mapping, and negotiation. Enumerations are like community run censuses, in which communities move door-to-door and collect information about families in the area. When officials and professionals attempt to extract such information they are often met with fierce resistance from fearful residents, but when local organized urban poor groups manage the process they are able to move much more freely.
Enumerations are often followed by community mapping, which is conducted in order to spatially represent the information collected. These maps are often vital for planning purposes and community involvement has proven successful in ensuring local residents appreciate the need for the proposed development and resettlement options. With their data in hand, communities can furnish local authorities with accurate and up-to-date information so that planning is more responsive to on the ground realities. To the negotiating table they also bring financial resources, mobilized through the daily savings of thousands of members.
The negotiation that follows is one based on mutual respect: respect for the need to plan our cities and an equal amount of respect for the residents of those cities who – often through no fault of their own – live at odds with long neglected or recently adopted urban development plans.
As the KCCA works to turn Kampala into a planned city, let it work with organized communities of the urban poor. Perhaps the process will move slightly slower than an early morning bulldozer raid, but it will legitimize the development agenda and prevent the loss of more innocent lives.
For more information on the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda, visit their website www.nsdfu.org.