LITTLE TO CELEBRATE

Dark Easter for Njiru residents left homeless after evictions

Families stranded five days after their houses were demolished

In Summary
  • Residents claimed there was no prior notice to the demolitions which caught them off guard with little time left to salvage their properties from the houses.
  • They held protests, resulting in a huge traffic snarl-up along Kangundo road.

 

Residents of Njiru watch their houses being demolished by bulldozer on March 27, 2021
Residents of Njiru watch their houses being demolished by bulldozer on March 27, 2021
Image: COURTESY

Njiru residents have little to celebrate this Easter as hundreds still remain homeless five days after their homes were demolished.

Many of the families have remained stranded, confused and hopeless as they lack alternative places to seek shelter.

The demolitions came at a time when the Covid-19 cases in Nairobi continue to rise by the day which has seen an 8pm-4am curfew imposed and the area being  classified under the “diseased zone" together with four other counties.

Just hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the new Covid-19 containment measures, Last week on Saturday the families watched in despair as bulldozers demolished their houses.

Residents claimed there was no prior notice to the demolitions which caught them off guard with little time left to salvage their properties from the houses.

They held protests, resulting in a huge traffic snarl-up along Kangundo road.

On Thursday, the families decried saying the government had decided to "eat and bury" them alive especially at a time when jobs are being lost, rainy season is here  and schools are closed.

Benjamin Ojwang alias Mzee Ojwang told the Star he is yet to come to terms with the demolitions and doesn’t know how or where to start from.

He was employed in an electronic shop at Nyamakima but was laid off last year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country and since then he has been selling second hand clothes in the CBD  and getting casual jobs in Industrial area.

“I have been a residing in Njiru since 1992 and worked hard to build a house here. I have four children and a wife to feed and now we are homeless. With the economy battered, where are we going to get an affordable house to live in ?" he posed.

28-year-old Tabitha Nduku who a single mother to a two-year-old and had established a mama mboga kiosk within the estate,  said she witnessed her business structure and house being demolished within 10 minutes.

“Why is the government always targeting the Wanjikus? How do we even protect ourselves from Covid-19 if we don’t have a roof over our heads or food to eat?” she posed.

The families said they did not know who to turn to for help as police officers who are supposed to protect them watched from a distance as the bulldozers demolished what was once a home to many families.

Demolitions in Kariobangi North on Monday, May 4, 2020.
Demolitions in Kariobangi North on Monday, May 4, 2020.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Last year in May, about 5,000 residents of Kariobangi North were left homeless after the government flattened their homes to repossess the grabbed land for the Dandora Estate waste sewerage plant.

On May 8, the national government said it had suspended further demolitions for the next four months. The directive followed a public outcry over the cruel evictions during the rains and at a time Kenyans were battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Two weeks later, at around 10pm, bulldozers arrived at Ruai. People were ordered to vacate before their houses were demolished.

At least 1,500 city residents were forced to spend a second night out in the cold amid heavy rains.

The government had said it will proceed with its planned sewer project, citing fears that donors funding the programme would pull out.

The Nairobi City County Evictions, Resettlement and Demolitions Control Bill, 2020 proposes that demolitions of unauthorised structures in the capital should be carried out within the regular working hours, between Monday and Friday.

“The implementation of this Act shall be guided with protection from arbitrary evictions, protection and enforcement of fundamental freedoms and rights,” the bill reads.

The bill which has already had its first reading in the Assembly, says the reason for eviction shall give the unauthorised occupant at least 14 days to vacate the land or premises.

The owner of private land shall prior to filing a suit for eviction, give written notice of at least three months before the date of the intended eviction.

Parklands MCA Jayendra Malde who drafted the bill, seeks to make it illegal to carry out evictions on weekends and during the rainy season.

The bill comes in the wake of demolitions and evictions that have left more than 100 families homeless. Some have lost property and others suffered injuries.

If Malde's bill is passed, the county government will be required to resettle evictees from public land. The lands executive will be required to prepare a resettlement plan for those affected.

“Where the return of the displaced persons is possible, the CEC shall establish conditions and provide means, including financial measures for voluntary return in safety, security and dignity to homes or places of habitual residence while ensuring the resettlement occurs in a just and equitable manner and in accordance with the resettlement plan,” the bill states.

-Edited by Sarah Kanyara