In May, more than 7,000 people in Nairobi’s informal settlements were forcefully evicted from their homes by the State-run Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC).
The notice of eviction of Kariobangi Sewerage Farmers Slum, Korogocho Market, Kisumu Ndogo and Nyayo Village residents was served on the residents only two days to the evictions. NCWSC claims ownership of the land and says it had been illegally occupied since 2008. The Environment and Land Court’s interim orders prohibiting the forced evictions pending the full hearing of the matter was blatantly disregarded, as NCWSC proceeded with the demolitions.
NCWSC paid no consideration to the economic predicament brought about by the pandemic; the residents were left homeless and more exposed to the risk of contracting coronavirus. They were hopeless as they did not have the option of retreating to their rural homes due to the travel restrictions imposed on Nairobi at the time.
Forced evictions are common, particularly in the urban slums of Nairobi. On August 3, 2020, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services carried out demolitions in Mukuru slums to pave way for road expansion. Several people were injured, one died, and more than 500 families were rendered homeless. The residents claimed they were given a one-day notice only before the demolitions.
In 2018, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority demolished a section of Kibra slum in order to build a highway, but did not compensate those who lost their homes. A similar scenario was witnessed in the Deep Sea slum in Westlands, Nairobi.
Forced evictions are prima facie violations of the right to housing and states should be strictly prohibited in all cases, from intentionally rendering a person or community homeless through eviction, whether forced or lawful. Forced evictions not only violate the right to adequate housing, but also the right to life, the right to security of the person and the right to non-interference to privacy. The right to adequate housing is particularly provided for under Article 43(b) of the Constitution.
In Kenya, all evictions must be carried out in accordance with Section 152(G) of the Land Act 2012. The key requirements include at least three months’ notice before eviction; affected persons should have access to legal redress from the courts — the court may suspend or confirm the operation of the notice; the dignity, right to life and security of those affected must be respected; mechanisms should be put in place to prevent the arbitrary loss of property and the principles of necessity and proportionality should be adhered to in the use of force.
Additionally, international law guidelines require sufficient consultation with the affected communities. The evictions must not take place at night, during bad weather, festivals or religious holidays, prior to elections, during or just prior to school exams and compensation or alternative accommodation must be provided immediately after the evictions. At the very least, the State must ensure that evicted persons have access to food, water, sanitation, basic shelter, appropriate clothing, education for children and childcare facilities.
Unfortunately, development-based evictions are likely to recur and so it is important that going forward, they are carried out in a humane manner.
The evictions should be carried out in strict compliance with the Constitution, the Land Act and international human rights law. All governmental institutions are bound by these laws with no exceptions whatsoever and those that violate them should be held to account. Court injunctions halting proposed evictions should be strictly adhered to by the authorities as judicial relief is a remedy afforded to the affected people.
Evictions should only be carried out with a human rights-based approach. The dignity, right to life, right to security and right to property of the affected persons must be respected throughout the process. Therefore, the government must have proper arrangements for resettlement and compensation of the affected people before carrying out any demolitions and evictions. This should be done in conjunction with the relevant stakeholders.
Finally, the government should address the root cause of forced evictions in informal settlements, which is the emergence of slums on public land due to unavailability of affordable and sufficient housing.
Ms Rahedi is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya