Friday, September 02, 2022

No Justice for the Poor in Kenya

 According to Patrick Njoroge, program manager at Akiba Mashinani Trust in Kenya, a group that works for slums to be improved and integrated into the city fabric, under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s outgoing administration the city has experienced “the worst evictions in the history of this country” — often coinciding with planned developments catering to the city’s elite minority.

According to Njoroge, the mental, economic, and social impacts of such violent evictions remain a permanent fixture in the lives of those displaced from the city’s informal settlements. “The first thing people suffer from after evictions is the breakage of that social fabric that existed before,” Njoroge tells me. “People live together; they support each other and do things together. After evictions, everyone goes their own way and those support systems are severed.”

According to Njoroge, government demolitions disrupt the lives of children, with some being left out of school for extended periods of time. Schools are often destroyed in the demolitions and documents are commonly lost in the chaos. Losing livelihoods and homes also makes it so parents are no longer able to afford school fees.

“Then a lot of people’s livelihoods are disrupted,” he continues. “People become beggars overnight. We have a lot of cases of people building up rental homes or had their own businesses and then overnight it’s completely wiped away. They have to rebuild from scratch without any compensation or support.”

Seventy percent of Nairobi’s population lives in informal settlements that make up just 5 percent of the city’s residential area. Homes in these areas are often made of corrugated tin sheets and lack access to adequate sewage, electricity, or water systems.

In Nairobi, the increasing price of land means no poor residents are safe from violent land grabs, even when they have obtained ownership documents for their plots. These demolitions are part of the “struggle to control Nairobi,” says George Kegoro, the former executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), and have become increasingly “big and brutal” over the years.

“As pressure for land increases, the value of the land goes up,” Kegoro explains. “There’s always an element of greed behind these demolitions and a feeling of poor people not deserving a place to live and that land should be available to do high-end economic activity. . . . Inherent in that, then, is corruption because the only way to access that land is through the use of violence through the state.”

One slum resident evicted explained, “There’s no point in having laws in Kenya because if you are rich and powerful then you don’t need to follow them. It makes us feel like we’re not even part of this country.”

Another said, “There’s no justice for the poor in Kenya.”

Kenyans Are Being Violently Evicted From Their Homes to Make Room for Developers (

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