Opinion: Forcible evictions are inexcusable

Wilson Airport

It rained heavily last night and all I could think of was families of City Carton. The City Carton community faces imminent eviction from a road reserve. They represent the unplanned side of national and county rapid infrastructural development plans.

 They and the many other communities who currently face forcible eviction seemed largely forgotten in the headlines from the Devolution Conference this week. 

City Carton is a people’s settlement of 400 households currently living on a road reserve nicknamed ‘Kismayu’ behind Nairobi’s Wilson Airport. Like the Kwa Jomvu Mombasa and other communities in Taita Taveta, Kwale and Kilifi, these communities are under renewed efforts to evict them without alternatives. For City Carton, this will be the third time.

The renewed efforts echo experiences of 2009 and 2014. Political cynics might point out that once the business of securing votes from these populous communities is done, the process of displacing them begins.

Rapid urbanisation, rising housing demands, infrastructure upgrading and lucrative tenders drive the momentum. Road construction is also one of the pillars of the Jubilee Big Four. For the urban poor living on road reserves and public land, these initiatives may spell the end of their communities. 

More than half of the country’s urban population live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions and have no security of tenure. Many communities have lived this way for decades. The persistence of their conditions is the forgotten side of Kenya’s rapid growth story. Left largely unplanned for, they consistently face forced evictions by well-resourced and effective government agencies.

Diggers and cranes have long replaced hammers, chisels and crowbars as demolition tools of choice. Often, the presence of armed police and absence of county officials leaves the community with little options for dialogue. Forced evictions is an international and national human rights violation. The displacement and indignity it creates, offends our Bill of Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article 43 of the Constitution says all Kenyans, have the right to basic needs including shelter. 

That this should be happening in 2018 is inexcusable. Laws and guidelines like the 2009 Evictions and Resettlement Guidelines and the 2016 Mandatory Procedures Land Laws Amendment Act protect Kenyans from forced evictions. They require authorities to give written adequate notice, conduct genuine community consultations, offer compensation for any loss of property and most importantly, provide alternative resettlement housing. County authorities must be present during the evictions to ensure no excessive use of force, arbitrary destruction of property or loss of life happens. Evictions cannot take place in bad weather, at night or over a weekend. 

These legal provisions have been invoked in a court of law. Ruling on the case of Susan Waithera and four others Nairobi City Council in 2011, Justice Daniel Musinga noted that evictions should not result in homelessness, vulnerability or the violation of human rights.

The State must ensure adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land. Our obligation to international and national laws and our basic decency requires our county and national governments to hear the cry of community leaders.  Forced evictions in City Carton and across the country must be halted until the rains subside and alternative resettlement housing or land is availed for communities.


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