On May 16th 2020 just like most Kenyans, I learned about the Kariobangi forced evictions through twitter. My friend and I had a very emotional chit chat about it and left it at that. But not before we liked, retweeted a couple of tweets from the hashtags, #KariobangiEvictions, #justisticeforKariobangi etc. Local and International dailies wrote articles condemning that in the course of that week. Organizations like Amnesty International, UN-HABITATreleased statement responding to the evictions. All of the latter was to urge the government to stop the evictions. A few days later another hashtag was already trending #RuaiEviction. Another one Damn!
So I decided to check if other people in the world were experiencing the same, In the west, it appeared that there was some temporary ban of eviction until post-COVID-19. Let’s come back home and understand why people are waking up to bulldozers demolishing over 600 homes and forcefully evicting at least 5,000 people. The evictions were explained as a process of reclaiming 3000-acre land for the expansion of the sewerage plant. Of course, rapid urbanization and population growth necessitated the expansion of the plant.
The courts had allowed the residents to remain on the land until the case was to be hearing on June 2nd 2020.
The Contested Land
As I dug deep into this matter, I found a detailed daily nation article When the law falls silent: Evictions in the time of Covid-19 “which gave an in-depth history of how we ended up here.
Through the compulsory acquisition, the Kenyan government had previously acquired 5000acres from the Embakasi Ranch shareholders which house the contested 3000-acre land. The land was to be reserved for the building of stabilisation ponds for Nairobi’s wastewater.|” The Nairobi City Council (NCC) only utilised 500 acres and left the 4500 remaining acres unattended and unfenced. The NCC then passed a resolution to resettle squatters on 1600 acres of the 3000-acre property in question. Some of the squatters were people with legitimate resettlement claims; having lost land during the upgrading of the Mathare 4A slums and the upgrading of the Mathare 4A school. Some politicians nonetheless saw this as a gerrymandering opportunity to fortify support in the area by filling it with their supporters and brought in truckloads of people to get land in the area in what became a free-for-all exercise”.
Politician and land, that’s a tricky recipe. It always ends in premium tear. Let’s not dwell much on what the law dictates on evictions processes. On second thought, let’s peep, kiasi. After years of operating under the colonial legal framework, the New Constitution in 2010 enacted new land laws. These were: Land Act 2012, Land Registration Act 2012, National Land Commission Act 2012 later the Land Law Amendment 2016 and Community Land Act 2016. The Land Law amendment act 2016 outlines the procedures of carrying out evictions.
The act states that all evictions shall be carried out in strict accordance with the following procedures; 1.)Be carried out in a manner that respects the dignity, right to life and security of those affected. 2.) Include special measures to ensure effective protection to groups and people who are vulnerable such as women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities just to mention a few.
How many more tweets?
With all that said it didn’t stop the eviction process even worse during a global pandemic. Such acts expose people to intense vulnerabilities. First, it exposed the Kariobangi North residents to threats of contracting the virus and other diseases. Secondly, most of the victims have not only lost their home but also their sources of livelihoods. “Since Covid-19 arrived, many people have lost their livelihoods. Then on top of that, you lose your home, your community and your entire social support network.” Ruth Mumbi, the coordinator of the Grassroots Women Initiative Network.
Securing safe housing for all and providing essential services are critical elements of national efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic and prevent the loss of life. Unsafe living conditions predispose women and girls to gender-based violence with teenage pregnancies. All the evictees are at risk of mental health issues. Being a lockdown period they are at higher risks of experiencing police brutality. I could go on and on…
What happens next now that tweets aren’t trending? Is it a case of “until next time?”. What can we do prevent the next eviction? Social media provides a platform for social activism but how long does it take for actual change, how many tweets? The law has been gravely ignored! Why are we leaving pregnant women and babies out stranded? This kinds of eviction are a violation of human rights. Those responsible for these acts should be held accountable, to say the least.
It is our duty to ensure that power, in whatever form is subjugated to the law. Without this, our effort to establish the rule of law in this country is futile. We are still healing from historical injustices its very unfortunate that we are creating new ones.
I hope we heal!