Introduction | Ongoing and Threatened Evictions | Response of the Affected Communities | Concerns on the Short and Long-Term Threat of Forced Evictions | Proposals for a Way Forward |
Nairobi informal settlements residents have for the last couple of weeks experienced the acts of forced evictions while thousands are yet to come to terms with thoughts of possible eviction and demolition, after being issued with eviction notices that would destabilise their short and long term socio- economic stability.
The eviction notices authored by government ministries and parastatals gives way to large-scale demolition of structures that purportedly present a risk to the occupants of railway line operational corridors and households living near or under electric power lines and way leaves or are on the riparian reserves.
There are over 172 informal settlements in Nairobi, these are homes to over two million people. Residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements constitute 65% of the city’s total population and yet they are crowded on 3% of the total land in the city.
These staggering statistics have their genesis well anchored on the failure of the State to cater for low-cost housing for the poor. As a result of this failure, thousands of residents of informal settlements in Nairobi have encroached on unoccupied land, including those set aside for road reserves, railway lines, public utilities, fly paths and the riparian. It is in these open spaces where slum dwellers have put up semi-permanent structures.
The main reason being advanced by various quarters justifying the evictions is that it is dangerous for people to live near the rail lines and power lines. That position is indisputable. However, the situation at hand in the informal settlements is really complex because of its historical context.
Any solution offered for the current problem must consider the origins of informal settlements. Most structure owners in Kibera, Mukuru and the other affected areas have paid a ‘price’ to the local Provincial administration including chiefs, wazee wa vijiji (village elders) and the police in exchange for “official permission” to occupy these open spaces.
The Slum dwellers have been increasingly occupying space near the rail line and under power lines for decades and they have occupied these places with the full knowledge and sanction of the Government.
These large-scale demolitions are being undertaken with little consideration of their disastrous effect on the residents. The internal displacement that will invariably accompany the forced evictions will lead to increased violence, insecurity, loss of livelihoods, community structures and consequently greater poverty for hundreds of thousands of people living in informal settlements such as Mukuru, Kibera, Mitumba-Wilson Airport, KPA, Masai village and many other settlements.
Forced evictions of this magnitude are unprecedented in Nairobi. To render tens of thousands homeless in a matter of a few days is an unlawful slum eradication campaign. Furthermore, forced evictions of this nature are in breach of well-established international norms and laws which obligate the Government to provide the affected communities with:
(1) Adequate and reasonable notice, (2) genuine consultative forums, (3) information on the proposed evictions and (4) adequate alternative housing or resettlement of those to be affected in the event of an eviction.
There have been numerous announcements and press statements over the last one and a half months indicating that different government agencies will undertake demolitions and evictions in designated slum areas within Nairobi. These demolitions essentially pertain to structures located in three major areas: (a) within 100 metres of either side of the railway line, (b) under high voltage power lines and (c) the riparian reserves.
Not surprisingly, the already executed and future intended evictions have caused fear, panic and confusion among the affected communities. This is because the masses in the settlements were not given official notice or actual parameters and dates for the planned evictions. In Kyang’ombe, for instance the local Provincial Administration who effected the evictions had neither settlement maps nor settlement profiles to identify which specific structures were marked for demolition. As a result, no one knew with certainty when they were likely to be evicted. This lack of information flow created a vacuum that had been filled by rumour mills, speculation and exploitation.
The affected communities had hoped for an opportunity to dialogue with the Government for an alternative. Unfortunately this did not materialise.
In Kyang’ombe and KPA settlements, residents living on the fly path operational corridor had filed a case in the High Court against the Kenya Airports Authority, seeking an injunction to restrain the Authority from forcibly evicting them. They hoped the court would impel KAA to hold adequate consultations with the community so that an alternative settlement is identified. The court order was not enforced.
Long-Term Effects of Forced Evictions
Based on these facts, Muungano Wa Wanavijiji would like to stress the shocking ills that are unfolding. This Campaign acknowledges that the basic idea of slum renewal is a good one.
However, lack of coordinated thinking and respect for the rule of law and the dignity of the affected parties is alarming. To that end, we must protest and point out the aspects cited below that show just how dangerous the acts of the Government can be.
Of immediate concern is that the planned evictions will render tens of thousands of people homeless. The effect of these evictions will essentially create refugee communities of internally displaced slum dwellers. Settlements like Mukuru, Kibera, Mathare and Korogocho are over congested. Rents have doubled and even tripled in some areas since news of the evictions. As a result, the evictions will force many people to migrate to other smaller slums or to create new slum areas.
The planned evictions are likely to provoke physical conflict and violence. For example, residents on the rail line in Kibera are already scuffling over who will occupy the limited space that will be available after the demolitions. There is also the threat that affected residents particularly structure owners will physically try to resist the evictions, which will inevitably result into violence.
In addition to short-term threats of violence and chaos, the long-term negative implications for the economic and social development of the slum settlements are very serious. The affected areas are not only dwelling places. They also have a large number of kiosks, shops and open-air markets. Thousands of people stand the chance of losing their businesses and sources of income.
The unavoidable result will be greater impoverishment and hardship to families who are already struggling to survive. Moreover, the involuntary displacement that will accompany these evictions is not limited to the physical dislocation of families, houses, businesses, schools and churches.
It also involves significant dismantling of neighbourhoods, families, culture and the local community in the affected areas.
Proposals for a Way Forward
We respectfully urge the Government of Kenya to carry out the following acts:
a.) Immediately suspend plans for any and all forced evictions in the urban informal settlements.
b.) Disseminate accurate information and carry out in-depth consultations with all affected communities to find a feasible alternative to the forced evictions.
c.) If there are no alternatives, ensure that international standards related to forced evictions are followed including but not limited to the following:
i. adequate and reasonable notice to all affected parties
ii. Information on the proposed evictions
iii. Consultation with the affected parties
iv. Adequate alternative housing or resettlement
d.) Develop a comprehensive policy on evictions that is consistent with local and international human rights law.
e.) The Provincial Administration should not implement any order for eviction. Instead, a coordinated and disinterested body should be made responsible for orderly and peaceful evictions.
f.)Appoint an inter-ministerial consultative group to coordinate any and all plans related to evictions and demolitions that will take place in the informal settlements. Provide immediate assistance to those people who have already been evicted.