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January 23, 2019

Kibera villages, schools flattened to make way for highway linkage

Aftermath after a caterpillar demolished residential houses in Kibra Nairobi to pave way for the construction of Langata Ngong road link road July 23 2018 / Kennedy Njeru
Aftermath after a caterpillar demolished residential houses in Kibra Nairobi to pave way for the construction of Langata Ngong road link road July 23 2018 / Kennedy Njeru

Thousands of Kibera residents watched helplessly yesterday as heavy machinery flattened their homes to make way for a new road.

The operation went smoothly and security was tight. But residents were homeless, distraught and said the notice given on July 3 to vacate by July 16 was too short.

Makina Self-Help and Adventure Pride Centre primary schools and Egesa Children’s Home were pulled down. Teachers told pupils to go back home, but most had no homes to go back to.

The 600-metre-long Sh2 billion route will link Lang’ata Road and Ngong Road. The Kenya Urban Roads Authority had postponed demolition for a week to allow for compensation and mapping.

The houses were built illegally on public land.

The operation proceeded despite a global lobby’s request to have it stopped. Police cordoned off the area. Some residents said they were awakened at 3am as armed police banged on their doors and told them to leave. They were given three hours to remove their belongings.

The razing began at 6am.

Kura communications officer John Cheboi said notice to vacate was adequate and some defied the order.

“These people were supposed to leave a week ago. Actually, we’ve been lenient because we wanted to have a record of them so they get some small compensation,” he said.

The road will be 60 metres wide. It will run from the DC’s office via Kibera South Health Centre to Kungu-Karumba Road. It will have five-metre-wide cycling tracks on both sides and walkways.

Residents of Mashimoni, Lindi, Kambi Muru and Kisumu Ndogo villages were displaced.

Resident Asha Mukhusa accused the government of “giving short notice”. She said they were “ambushed” by the early morning eviction. “They were here Saturday. We only had yesterday to look for a place. I had planned to move to my daughter’s house before they raided us this morning,” Mukhusa said tearfully.

She and her family have lived in the area for more than 30 years. She has two sons in secondary schools in the neighbourhood.

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Mukhusa said her belongings were destroyed as she couldn’t move them due to “old age and poor health. All my house and business items were wrecked,” she said.

Another resident, Zanika Hassan, said they were assured they would be evacuated after schools close for the August holidays.

“We were relaxed because we had been told the learning process would not be interfered with. We are shocked they have altered the arrangement,” she said.

Amid residents’ outcry, Kura, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the National Land Commission had met to hear their grievances. They resolved to have victims compensated for their houses and businesses.

By last Friday, beacons had been mounted and a list of those to be paid made, Kura communications officer Cheboi said. He said 2,000 households were affected. Amnesty International said more than 30,000 people were evicted.

AI country executive director Irungu Houghton criticised Kura for what he said was breaching the agreement reached by the agencies to have a rapid resettlement action plan in place. It demanded the demolition be stopped.

“The goal of adequate and dignified housing can’t be met by stripping 30,000 inhabitants of the only housing, shops, clinics and schools they have,” he said in a statement.

Houghton said demolition should only have happened after residents were resettled. He said Kura’s decision “betrays the public trust and violates our laws”.

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