Amnesty International has called on the Kenyan authorities to halt the forced evictions in a Nairobi settlement that have left hundreds of families homeless and destitute.
A bulldozer from the Nairobi City Council flattened market stalls in Kabete NITD on Tuesday night for the second time this week. On Saturday, authorities had demolished around 100 homes and 470 market stalls.
Despite rumours in the community that forced evictions were imminent, no official notice was given to residents or traders.
“The residents of Kabete NITD, who were already living in poverty, have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed without warning – these mass demolitions must end immediately,” said Justus Nyan’aya, Director of Amnesty International Kenya.
When some traders continued to work on the rubble of their former stalls, the bulldozer returned just before midnight on Tuesday to re-flatten the site.
A toilet block that was partially destroyed on Saturday and then re-built by residents was also entirely demolished on Tuesday night. Police and city officials then filled the remaining pit latrines with rubbish so that they could not be used.
Angry residents reportedly clashed with armed police on Wednesday as tensions flared in the settlement.
Many residents were still inside their homes when the bulldozers first arrived, giving them just minutes to evacuate.
“I woke up suddenly and heard the tractor as it was demolishing everything. We’d had no warning they would be evicting us. We tried to salvage some of our things but it all happened so fast. We even lost all of our clothes and bedding. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to run to. The government should give us land where we can build,” Beverly, a 61-year-old resident of Kabete NITD, told Amnesty International.
The evictions have left hundreds of people, mainly women and children, without shelter. Many are sleeping outdoors without blankets or warm clothes, or money to buy food or other essential items. It is currently winter in Nairobi and cold at night.
Most of the market traders – the majority of them women – lost all their goods and have had their livelihoods destroyed. Residents believe that another part of the settlement is also at risk of being demolished.
“The government is treating us like dogs. They don’t think that we are human beings. They say that they are fighting poverty but really they are promoting it by carrying out evictions in this way,” said Sella, a 78 year-old woman from the part of Kabete NITD under threat of forced eviction.
Kabete NITD (Native Industrial Training Department) was established in 1974 by workers constructing a road. The land is owned by the Veterinary Department of the government of Kenya, although there have been other claims of ownership and repeated threats of forced eviction.
In May 2010, market traders operating from the road reserve in Kangemi were relocated by the provincial administration to unused land in Kabete NITD. The relocation took place after months of consultation and negotiation and was peacefully carried out.
By contrast, the forced evictions from Kabete NITD have been carried out without any such safeguards and completely disregard the relocation plan that had earlier been agreed with the communities.
Under international human rights law, evictions should only be carried out as a last resort and only after all other feasible alternatives to eviction have been explored in genuine consultation with affected communities. Governments are also obliged to ensure that no one is rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights as a consequence of eviction.
International human rights monitoring bodies and NGOs have for many years highlighted concerns about the pattern of forced evictions and threats of mass forced evictions in Kenya.
In November 2008, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended that protection against forced eviction should be included in Kenya’s new constitution. In 2009 it called for the establishment of a legal framework for eviction based on internationally acceptable guidelines.
The Kenyan government has committed to creating national eviction guidelines that would ensure adequate safeguards are put in place, but it has not yet done so.
In the absence of such guidelines, large-scale forced evictions of people living in informal settlements are regularly carried out in a manner that contravenes international human rights standards.
This work is part of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign, which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign will mobilize people all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more information visit the Demand Dignity website