Thousands located in Kenya’s largest slum have recently experienced days of demolition by government bodies for which human rights groups have called a violation of the law. The demolition of illegal structures through the Kibera slum in Nairobi, is to usher a new $20m dual-carriageway through the capital – approved by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) as a part of a project to relieve traffic congestion by building a highway through parts of Nairobi. Amnesty International have respectively denounced the government to halt the demolitions and complete the listing and resettlement of all the estimated 30,000 people who have been affected.
Local resident Vincent Omondi born in the newly flattened area, claims that “some of the tenants spend their night in cold … There are also others who are moving around looking for cheaper houses.” Amnesty International responds to the matter by announcing that “the goal of adequate and dignified housing cannot be met by stripping the 30,000 inhabitants of the only housing, shops, clinics and schools they have. Demolition prior to the completion of the Resettlement Action Plan betrays the public trust and violate our laws.” Alongside Amnesty Internationals’ disapproval of the demolitions, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) also labelled the forced evictions “not only a violation of the law and human rights, but also an unfortunate breach of trust and bad faith by the KURA and other concerned agencies.”
Despite intentions to reduce congestion and promote a more efficient transport system, KURA has been criticised by human rights groups for violating Kenya’s national and international human rights obligations according to All Africa. Reuters also highlights that rights groups have accused the government for going back on pre-existing agreements to delay construction pending an agreement. While there are no doubt inequalities that circle Kenya’s capital, the recent demolitions have revealed how unequal land access, poor urban design, lack of political will and public accountability is. Aside from prioritising road construction and expansion, investments in mass public transport in an increasingly urbanising, fast-paced city is due to create greater problems.
Kibera lies on the outskirts of Nairobi and is home to over 400,000 people. Construction began in 2016, and there have been earlier demolitions, but residents are recalling that the latest move has taken them by surprise as authorities promised compensation and advance notice of any forced convictions. Al Jazeera reports that on July 10, KNCHR met with KURA, the National Land Commission (NLC) and civil society groups to develop a resettlement framework for the evicted Kibera residents. They collectively acknowledged that KURA would evaluate the demolished properties and provide the evicted residents with some form of compensation to ensure fairness. Recent statements confirmed that enumerations for 2,000 households in Kibera were completed and that residents should leave their homes over the weekend. However, residents have claimed they have not received any form of compensation.
New research has broadcasted that prioritisation of road construction without consideration for the consequences of urban mobility and safety has had a negative impact on the city’s major slum population. The demolitions have profoundly highlighted the difficulties faced by the less fortunate living in informal settlements as African cities expand rapidly. Facing much criticism, the government has defended the demolition by saying that only 2,000 households were affected and that a resettlement plan for those evicted had already been completed according to Quartz Africa. This number however, is not in conjunction with peace and security for all other residents and is a still remains a concern.
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