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We are not children of a lesser God; residents say as they vow to stay put amid rising tension

By Vincent Achuka | Jul 8th 2018 | 5 min read


The Ngong Road-Kungu Karumba-Langata road that is to be expanded into a four-lane bypass. More than 30,000 residents of Kibera will be evicted to pave way for the road. [Photo: David Gichuru, Standard]

An epic clash between the State and residents of Kibera has been set, with both sides sticking to their guns over who has the rights to a stretch of land that cuts through the slum and where a dual carriage way is to pass.

As the clock ticks towards one of the biggest forced evictions in recent times, residents living on the road reserve have vowed they will not move an inch.

The tension in the slum is visible.

Since the directive to move out of the road reserve was issued on Wednesday, residents have been converging in groups to discuss the fate that awaits them. Many are putting on a brave face.

“We will not move. This is not the first time we are being threatened with an eviction over the road, so it is not anything new,” says James Bondi, one of those fighting the impending eviction.

Volatile settlement

As one of the most volatile informal settlements, anything that raises tension in Kibera easily ignites a physical confrontation.

And if the record of recent evictions is anything to go by, the stage is set for a bloody war between the state and its people.

The Ngong Road-Kungu Karumba-Langata bypass, which cuts through Kibera, is expected to ease traffic jams on Lang’ata Road by eliminating the need to pass through town if you are heading to Westlands or beyond.

Now, the big question is whether the State is willing to put its human rights record on the spot again almost a year after violent elections.

“Just wait and you will see for yourself,” says John Cheboi, the corporate communications manager at Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura).

“This is no longer a Kura issue. We have pleaded with them (residents) to leave the road reserve and failed, it is now a national government matter,” he says.

If the Government makes good its threat, it will for the first time in over 100 years effectively split Kibera into two separate slums.

Makina which is occupied by Nubians will be separated by the railway line and the new highway from Kambi Muru, Mashimoni, Laini Saba, Soweto East, Lindi and Silanga.

To the left of the new highway and also separated from the rest by the railway line will be whatever is left of Kisumu Ndogo, Gatwekera, Raila, Soweto West and Kianda.

With two cases filed against the eviction of people living on the path of the road, whatever is left now is a date with destiny.

And it is fast approaching, with just eight days left to the expiry of a Government order asking everyone living on the road reserve to move out.

The first case filed by the Nubian community against the project was thrown out by Justice Samson Okongo last year. 

“The respondents have contended that the petitioners who will be affected by the road construction have no right to compensation because they have no title to the land being acquired by the government,” Okongo said.

Residents say they will not move and will protest any attempt by the State to forcibly evict them from a place they have called home for decades.

“Is it that poor people don’t have rights in this country or is it that the government loves hurting its people?” asks Bernice Atieno, who has lived in Kambi Muru, one of the villlages in the slum that will be decimated, since the 80s

“Every time there is a demolition anywhere, must it be Kibera?” she asks.

Two weeks ago, the Government flattened at least 4,000 structures, at 42, an extension of Kibera located next to Jamhuri Estate.

Kenya Railways, which pushed for the demolition, said that those whose houses were flattened had encroached on the railway line.

A week before this, structures around Moi Girls High School had been demolished in a rage following allegations that a student had been raped.

While the two demolitions had their causalities, they both look like child’s play compared to what will happen on July 14 when bulldozers roar into Kibera with armed police officers in tow.

The expected bypass will cut 60 metres wide in the slum for 2.5km from the DC’s office in the north to the Kibera South Health Centre and into Lang’ata then to Kungu Karumba road. It will also have a 2.5-metre wide cycle tracks on each side, 2.5 metre wide footpaths and piped drains on the outer side kerbs.

According to Government estimates, Kibera has a population of about 95,000 per kilometer square.

When calculated, the amount of acreage required in the slum in order for the road to pass is 0.324 km square, which means some 30,000 people could be rendered homeless in just one week.

Area MP Kenneth Okoth has termed it an impending catastrophe that must be stopped by all means.

Missing link

“Violating the human rights of Kibera residents while denying basic relocation and resettlement assistance will create conflict and lead to unacceptable injuries, loss of property and life,” he says.

“The people of Kibera are not children of a lesser God and we cannot accept to be treated as second class citizens in our own country.” 

Conceptualized a year to independence in 1962, the four lane dual carriage also known as missing link 12, was never actualised until the year 2014.

In the five decades of no development on the reserve, Kibera has grown and its residents have made the road reserve their home. In 2013, the Government identified 16 roads that needed to be constructed to eradicate traffic jam in Nairobi.

Among them was the Ngong Road-Kibera-Kungu Karumba-Langata Link Road.

The Langata section of the road and the distance between Yaya Centre and the DC office are already complete.

The contractor, H Young, has been sitting idle waiting to roll its machinery to the new section. Any further delays will mean tax payers have to foot the idling charges since the Sh2 billion construction contract is supposed to elapse in November.

The Government says it has run out of patience and anyone who doubts whether the demolition will be carried out is in for a rude shock.

“Just be good people and tell them to leave because this time we are not going back,” Cheboi told Sunday Standard. 

“We have been talking to these people from last year pleading with them to move out.”

Section 7 of the Limitation of Actions Act, allows squatters who have occupied private land for more than 12 consecutive years to assume ownership through adverse possession.

However the same law protects government land against adverse possession.

If it happens, it will be the biggest demolition exercise ever attempted on a Kenyan slum since the year 2012 when part of Soweto East in Kibera was demolished to give way to new houses under the slum upgrading project.


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