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.