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.
by Michael Njuguna, Huruma–Kambi Moto, Nairobi
Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan slum dweller federation, expresses its grave concern on the ongoing evictions and threatened forced evictions taking place in Nairobi’s informal settlements. The latest settlement to be demolished is Mukuru Kwa Njenga’s Wape Wape village where three people lost their lives as they scampered to safety.
The federation is aware that there are plans to demolish houses located near power lines in a number of our communities, particularly along the Mukuru belt and other areas. This comes at a time when Kiang’ombe and Mitumba settlements were demolished by the Kenya Airports Authority due to their location under JKIA flight path. It is my view that there are more humane ways of addressing slum issues, but forced evictions have never made that cut.
A good example are the negotiations that have taken place between the communities living along the Mukuru-Kibera railway line and the Kenya Railways, who sat at a round table to discuss on the modalities of a Railway Relocation Action Plan. This lead to thousands of people reaching consensus that, “indeed we are living on the railway line and other than living on a public land we shall agree to relocate.”
These threatened demolitions have caused widespread panic, fear and confusion in our urban poor communities. Of immediate concern to us is the likelihood that tens of thousands of people will be rendered homeless and left no alternative areas to call home. In addition, we are concerned that the evictions will provoke physical conflict and violence.
Slum dwellers across settlements and villages have made it an agenda to always scuffle over who occupies the limited space that is available after demolitions. There are instances where structure owners resist evictions, which inevitably would result into violence.
Moreover, we are very concerned that the government is undertaking these forced evictions without regard for the law or established human rights norms. In most scenarios there has been no official notices served to the potentially affected parties that their structures will be demolished. General statements made in newspapers do not constitute adequate and reasonable notice as required by law.
In addition, we have found that government and private investors have in most instances failed to consult with or inform communities about the parameters of the evictions. This is the reason why Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, is pushing for the enactment of the eviction guidelines, which will ensure that the urban poor are treated with respect. As it stands, people do not know when and if they are going to be evicted.
And most notably, the government has not provided the people living in the slums any compensation for resettlement or alternative housing, which Is a basic minimum requirements of the government when it undertakes forced evictions. This applies even when the evictions are justified or somehow necessary.
It is a fundamental human rights principle that any process to evict people must follow a peaceful and lawful process that protects the rights and dignity of the poeple. Development of any kind cannot take precedence over the human rights of the poor.
This article originally appeared in the Muungano News January-March 2012 e-newsletter.
For more news from the Kenyan SDI Alliance ,visit the Muungano Support Trust blog.