Kenya: End Callous Forced Evictions Now

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Kenya: End Callous Forced Evictions Now
By: All Africa
08 November 2011
 

The High Court recently issued an injunction against a planned eviction of the Sinai residents while a court case filed by legislator Gidion Mbuvi against evictions in 18 informal settlements in Nairobi is heard.

Following the fire tragedy at Sinai [neighborhood] that killed over 100 people last month, the residents of Sinai are under threat of eviction without consultation or compensation.

Did you know that in sub-Saharan Africa three out of every four people living in a city or town live in a slum, like me?

That is a staggering statistic: A clear majority of Africa`s urban people live in homes built without prior planning.

Ordinary Kenyans living in informal settlements face many challenges. The authorities fail to adequately provide us with essential services such as water, sewers, roads, schools, clinics and police posts. But the biggest violation of our human rights is the threat of eviction.

I recently travelled with slum dwellers from Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Zimbabwe and Chad to the African Commission on Human and Peoples` Rights in the Gambia.

We went united to ask for help in demanding an immediate end to forced evictions.

The commission, whose session ended last Saturday, is an organ of the African Union, and as the highest human rights body on the continent, is AU-mandated by to ensure African governments that are party to the African Charter on Human Rights, respect human rights in their countries.

A forced eviction is when people are driven from their homes or land without due process and legal safeguards.

In Nairobi, there have been large-scale evictions carried out in a manner that contravenes international human rights standards.

More than 50,000 people living along the railway line remain under threat after a 30-day notice to quit was issued by the Kenya Railways Corporation in March 2010. Smaller evictions continue to occur, including Kwa Ng`ombe two weeks ago.

A Bulldozer Arrives

Article 43 of the new Constitution guarantees the right to accessible and adequate housing.

This right has been interpreted in two cases by the High Court to include protection against forced evictions.

However, the government is yet to put in place a legal framework to govern how evictions are to be carried out.

Imagine it was you. You come home in the evening, after a long day`s work. Suddenly, a bulldozer arrives guarded by armed police to demolish your home.

Whatever notice you have received, it has not given you enough time to legally challenge the eviction.

Your whole life is about to be destroyed. What is the one thing that you would take with you in the minutes left?

Authorities often try to justify forced evictions on the grounds that people in slums are "squatters" or living "illegally."

This ignores the fact that many people have no choice but to live in slums because there is no other affordable housing available to them.

Irrespective of whether people are "squatting," under regional and international human rights law, no evictions may be carried out without due process and basic legal protections. Yet our government has been ignoring its commitments.

The government should talk to us about options besides eviction. Informal settlement residents have ideas and solutions which could meet both their needs and the government`s needs.

We want to turn our capital into a great city, but also a human city, developed for all its people. With the new Constitution, we have an amazing opportunity to reduce poverty through respect for human rights.

With rapid urbanisation, this housing crisis will only increase in our cities. In just years, more Africans will live in cities or in towns. Is our government ready to work with us to beat that challenge?

Original article:
http://allafrica.com/stories/201111090304.html

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