Homeless but not Hopeless: Working together for eviction alternatives in Kibera

by James Tayler
Photo by Nicera Wanjiru Kimani of Know Your City TV Kenya.


Last week SDI received news of demolitions and evictions in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, that have left 30,000 families homeless, their homes, businesses, and belongings destroyed. SDI knows that there is another way. Successful alternatives to evictions have been demonstrated across the SDI network. In fact, Kibera itself is home to a successful large-scale relocation programme, in which the Kenya federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, used community-driven data collection and organizing processes to facilitate the successful relocation of slum dwellers living along Kibera’s railway line to a nearby housing scheme. This co-produced solution resulted in all families being housed on a smaller footprint of land, allowing for both the clearing of the railway reserve and upgrading of families’ living conditions. Not a single family was moved more than 100 metres from their original home, minimizing disruption to the local community by safeguarding social networks, employment and livelihoods opportunities, kids’ place in their schools, and the overall fabric of the community.

These violent evictions are particularly disturbing in light of this nearby example of another way. SDI invites local and national government to join hands with Muungano to put an end to these evictions and instead pursue a negotiated alternative that maintains the dignity, homes, and livelihoods of Kibera’s residents.

A brief summary of the Kenya railways RAP project is below, followed by links to additional articles about the Kenya Railway Relocation Plan, a project implemented by Muungano in partnership with Kenya Railway Corporation and funded by the World Bank:

This project involves the upgrading and resettlement of 9,000 families and businesses along an eleven kilometre stretch of rail line through two of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements, Mukuru and Kibera. It is a US$30 million Kenya government and World Bank funded programme to remove families and business sitting on the thirty-metre wide buffer on either side of the railway track and re-house them on its outer ten metres – effectively creating a 20-metre buffer for use by the railways, and improved housing and trading space for the residents. Construction began in Kibera in 2013 and is ongoing, with the first families moving in 2015.

There were notices to evict all people living along the railway buffer in 2004. Following large scale protest by civil society, including Muungano, the federation offered to design a win-win solution. This involved organising an exchange visit to India for the top brass of the Railways Corporation to see how the Indian railways and the SDI alliance had dealt with similar encroachment. Later, Muungano was contracted to develop a Relocation Action Plan (RAP) (Government of Kenya, 2005).

The railways RAP’s impact on how the Kenyan state deals with large-scale resettlement of informal communities faced with the threat of eviction has been to enforce the global position that government must bear the cost of displacements of communities on public projects, irrespective of the legality of tenure of those affected. These principles have now been adopted into state policy. Muungano’s other key success has been that community participation was positioned at the centre of this large informal settlement upgrading.[1]

Additional resources:




[1] “Muungano nguvu yetu (unity is strength): 20 years of the Kenyan federation of slum dwellers” by Kate Lines and Jack Makau, IIED Working Paper, January 2017, pp. 47-48, http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/10807IIED.pdf