By Shadrack Mbaka, MuST
Security of land tenure continues to be one of the most contentious issues in the coastal areas of Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi Counties, over time this has sparked heated debates between slum dwellers with the national government on one side and squatters on the other. Informal settlements are often put up on public (government owned) or private (individual or company owned) lands. In both cases, urban or peri-urban informal settlements are viewed as “illegal urban dwellers,” such descriptive adjectives of the urban poor has triggered urban social and infrastructural exclusions, where then local authorities (now County governments) considered informal settlements to be illegitimate beneficiaries of basic services, adequate housing, clean and appropriate water or sanitation and other human rights.
A huge number of similarities can be drawn between settlements situated on government land and those on private land based on the urban planning principles the category of land. Where an informal settlement is established can present complexities to the living situation of the urban poor.
Tudor Moroto Paradise informal settlement, in Mombasa County is one such settlement; grappling with people issues of tenure and infrastructure. The settlement is located along the shore lines of the Indian Ocean on the main island of Mombasa. Moroto paradise settlement began in 1985 with a handful population, with most of the inhabitants working in nearby industries and beach resorts, a decade later the settlement had expanded downhill to boarder the sea, currently the settlement is approximated to have a population of 12,000 people.
Moroto Paradise settlement is classified into three clusters; Tudor Moroto, Simitini and Bandarini. Since the year 2002, residents have continued to face eviction threats from the County government of Mombasa and “self imposed land owners”. The county government of Mombasa in sections of the media has been quoted to have warned residents of the informal settlement at Tudor Creek that they are living in an unsafe area. The County Lands executive Francis Thoya intimated that more than 10,000 people have encroached on the creek along the ocean, famously known as Tudor Moroto, and are living in danger.
The county government argues that the residents risk being swept away in case of a Tsunami or movement of the tectonic plates, which Mombasa Island seats on. Tectonic plates are pieces of the Earth’s crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere consisting of oceanic crust and continental crust.
However, Mzee Shaban one of the founding members of the settlement, argues “Moroto used to be a forest that boarders the sea and with the upbeat of the rural-urban migration necessitated by the search for employment in the coastal town of Mombasa and more so between 1991-2012 the settlement had established, some of the residents have lived in the settlement for the last 30 years and it’s only fair for the government to regularize the land which would lead to an upgrading agenda. We are not violating any environmental laws, what we need is an engagement with government on an alternative”.
Badilisha Maisha savings scheme ( altering our lives), a savings group affiliated to Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Federation of Slum dwellers, Kenya) is currently mobilizing communities in Moroto paradise to address issues of secure tenure, water and sanitation, housing and improved livelihoods. Rashid Mutua, Muungano national leader expressed, “The issues raised by the members of the federation in Moroto paradise are real and require urgent attention of all stakeholders, but for this to happen the federation intends to support the community amalgamate its own settlement data to take forward the negotiation bit”.
The resilience of the Moroto Community is un rivaled, the community through its own initiative through the Badilisha Maisha savings scheme, as a way of bringing and mobilizing residents together, the group has set its own pace by putting up a social hall/resource centre, that offers the community a comfort of meeting space, the resource centre also intends to serve as a nursery learning centre for kids in the neighborhood to begin nurturing their future.
These are some of the extreme conditions that Moroto residents are grappling with, especially expressed through the community’s struggles with sanitation. As demonstrated by Mwero Mkala, a resident of Moroto Paradise and a member of the local savings scheme, men, women and children of Moroto depend on one semi-permanent sanitation facility and risk their safety and general health each time they use the toilets in their community. Despite this problem, there is the need to improve the situation in Moroto, communities hesitate to permanently upgrade and build upon the land in fear of being evicted by landowners. This lack of secure tenure allows the situation in Moroto to continue to deteriorate, leaving the residents to endure living conditions that violate their human rights.
The complexity of land ownership and security plays a significant role in slum development and possibilities for upgrading. Through data collection process (enumerations and mapping/profiling), the federation begins unpacking potential solutions and opportunities available to the residents of Moroto, aiding the community as they continue advocating for their land and service rights.