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Demolishing Njiru residents’ homes amid pandemic wrong

OPINION
By Tioko Ekiru Emmanuel | April 28th 2021
Millicent Achieng Muga with her children watch helplessly when the bulldozers demolished their houses in Njiru quarry, Nairobi on April 23, 2021 [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The government has again demonstrated impunity by demolishing the homes of more than 5,000 Njiru residents in Nairobi amid strict Covid-19 lockdown. 

The government has decided to give a deaf ear to a statement issued on May 11, 2020 through the Cabinet Secretary for Interior, promising Kenyans and the global community that “until we are done with Covid-19 challenges, we should not have forcible evictions happening”.

But even with this statement, the government has been on a mission to perpetuate impunity in the name of “forced evictions.” Mass evictions have dominated the spheres of the “Kenyan state” with little attention being paid to the human rights ideals in the 2010 Constitution.

At the commencement of the pandemic, the government had evicted over 7,000 people from Kariobangi. This was followed by other forced evictions in Dagorreti Corner which left around, 3,000 people homeless. According to Amnesty International, these evictions and demolitions were carried out at the behest of Kenya Power and Lighting Company and Railways Corporation, both state agencies. 

All in all, the systematic evictions and subsequent demolitions of the houses of innocent citizens during this period of uncertainty posed by the pandemic is nothing but a clear indication of a government at war with its citizens. It further shows how the State has elevated the culture of arrogance and ignorance above the vision which animated the enactment of the Constitution. 

With respect to Bill of Rights in Chapter 4, the Constitution in clear and unambiguous terms notes that the purpose of recognising and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the potential of all human beings.

It also says that the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights belong to each individual and are not granted by the State. In Article 43(1) (b), the Constitution establishes the right to adequate and accessible housing to Kenyans from all walks of life.

The government has what it takes to ensure all Kenyans enjoy the right to adequate housing as commanded by the Constitution. In addition, the courts have affirmed that any eviction must comply with the normative grounding of the rule of law and principles anchored in the 2010 Constitution.

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Government has no mandate whatsoever to employ jungle law to torment those who cannot speak for themselves. Njiru residents, like any other citizens, must be accorded the dignified treatment they deserve as provided in the Bill of Rights. 

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