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Slum demolished as Wilson Airport reclaims land

By | Updated Sat, November 19th 2011 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Felix Olick

Hundreds of families in Mitumba slum in Nairobi have been left homeless after their homes were demolished for allegedly encroaching into land lying in Wilson Airport’s flight path.

The demolition squad descended on the village on Saturday morning under the watchful eye of the police as residents struggled to salvage their belongings.

Part of the Mitumba slum neighbouring Wilson Airport houses demolished by Kenya AirPorts Authority Photo: Moses Omusula/Standard

Families watched in disbelief as their houses were flattened by the bulldozers that spared no structure including a children’s home that initially housed hundreds of orphans.

Women carrying children on their backs braved the cold weather and mud to ferry their salvaged property to safety.

Emotions ran high in the informal settlement located in Langata Constituency with residents accusing the government of being insensitive to the plight of the poor.

"Where shall I sleep with my children in this cold weather? This government wants to get rid of the poor in this country," lamented Lynet Kiboge a resident.

She claimed the demolitions were done in an inhumane way saying properties worth thousands of shillings were destroyed inside their houses.

However according to Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), residents of the village built on the flight path and ignored repeated quit notices issued to them.

KAA head of Corporate Affairs, Dominic Ngigi told The Standard that the demolitions were done purely on the basis of safety and security of the airport.

Ngigi said that Wilson Airport was the most encroached airport in the country adding that the ‘illegal’ structures were a serious security threat.

Residents of Mitumba slum neighbouring Wilson Airport in Lang’ata Constitueny, Nairobi ponder what next after Kenya AirPorts Authority demolished their houses Photo:Moses Omusula/Standard

"If an accident was to occur, loss of life would be horrific and the blame will be on the government. This is a disaster waiting to happen," said Ngigi.

However, according to the residents there was discrimination in the way demolitions were done since storey buildings in the neighboring South C estate were not touched.

"What we would like to ask the government is why have they spared the storey buildings that are also next to the airport? Are they not a security threat to the airport?" posed George Karambuka, a pastor in the slum.

The residents also claimed there had been a court order restraining Kenya Airports Authority from demolishing their houses till the issue is concluded.

They said they were supposed to go to court on November 23 when the issue would be heard.

"What is the meaning of Kenyan courts if the government can overlook the court order and proceed with the demolitions," said Karambuka.

But Ngigi dismissed the allegations saying that the Authority had never been issued with any court order.

The residents are now pleading with their area MP, Prime Minister Raila Odinga to intervene so that they can be given alternative place to stay.