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January 24, 2019

State must protect rights of poor and rich alike

The Kibera slum settlements. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
The Kibera slum settlements. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

Justice is supposed to be blind but its inequitable application in Kenya rankles.

Take for instance ongoing demolition of settlements to clear the way for construction of roads in Nairobi and conservation of forests in the Mau.

While the government has a right to restore land to its intended use, the eviction of illegal settlers must be conducted humanely.

In Kibera, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority appears to have breached an understanding brokered by the National Commission on Human Rights with the National Land Commission on residents' relocation. It sends the wrong signals when government agencies do not respect protocols, defy court orders or work at cross purposes to undermine each other’s mandate.

The government must treat the poor and rich alike. It must not be seen to be beholden to the powerful though selective deployment of brute force on the weak. In the past, we have seen road routes altered to preserve the properties of the rich erected on the road reserves of Mombasa, Outering, Thika and even Lang’ata roads.

But when it comes to the poor, the alacrity with which evictions are carried out has left immense suffering in its wake. The state must be on the front line of guarding fundamental rights of citizens and not lead in their violation.

Quote of the Day: “Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.”

George Bernard Shaw

The Irish playwright was born on July 26, 1856.

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