Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Land Theft in Kenya

The demolition of homes in low-income and rural areas has become a familiar occurrence in Kenya, but this time, say housing rights advocates. 

The land at the centre of the legal tussle is 54 hectares (133 acres) which was excised from the larger Ngong Forest in 1998 "to be put to public use," according to local officials at the time. More than 20,000 families in Langata live on land that the environment ministry says was bought illegally by various civil servants who subdivided and sold parcels of it to unsuspecting members of the public. Now the ministry is taking back the land as part of a tree-planting drive, 

Asked about compensation for the evicted homeowners,  the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Keriako Tobiko, told the press conference that the government is not offering to pay anything. Tobiko said in June that because the land was initially bought illegally, the title deeds that Gedi and other homeowners hold are void.

"These people have been on this land for more than 20 years now. Where was the government all that time?," Renny Langat, a Nakuru-based constitutional lawyer asked. "Of course, I say that we should conserve the environment, but not at the expense of the people living in those areas because they are fully developed," Langat added. 

At the Royal Park Estate, home to 750 families, a 10-minute walk from Sun Valley Estate Phase 1, Hodhan Gedi also worries about the government's plans. She and her husband bought two parcels of land inside the estate 20 years ago and built houses on each of them, one they live in and the other they rent out.

"We have genuine titles that were issued within six months of our application by the same government that is threatening to evict us and have also been paying land rates to them," she explained.

Humphrey Otieno, chairman of the Nairobi People's Settlement Network, a coalition of community groups, said the government has inconsistently applied the law when it comes to evicting residents of high-end housing compared with those from slums.
In a recent round of evictions in May, the government demolished some 600 homes in the Kariobangi slum in northeast Nairobi with two days' notice, forcefully evicting at least 5,000 people in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, campaigners said.
"For thousands and thousands of residents in informal settlements who are there not by their choice but because of their status, they are evicted mostly at night, and court orders are completely defied," Otieno said . "The government is failing in its responsibility to provide, protect and fulfill its mandate ... by applying the law selectively," he said.

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