Scores of Kenyans have been left homeless following the demolitions that have been witnessed in the country for the last two weeks. Hundreds of residents of Syokimau in Mavoko Municipality watched in disbelief as their lifetime investments were turned into rubble in minutes. Some residents were caught on camera wishing that those behind the demolitions should have taken their lives instead. “They would have rather taken my life than the house in which I have invested millions of shillings,” George Mureu said amid sobs. He said the house cost him Sh15 million.
The Kenya Forum will be following this issue. We may be wrong but there is something about it that leaves us with serious doubts about the propriety of it all.
WHAT’S THE KAA UP TO?
The houses are alleged to have been built on land belonging to Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) but residents claim to have valid title deeds. Dominic Ngigi, the head of Corporate Affairs at KAA said the demolitions resulted from a cabinet decision being enforced by the Provincial Administration and the Kenya Police, but the issue had been made to look like it was about the KAA verses the public.
High Court Judge Martha Koome issued orders stopping further demolitions in the area and the government has set up a committee to investigate the matter.
Thousands of other families spent the weekend out in the rain when several shanties were also demolished in Mitumba slums near Wilson Airport as part of the operation to clear structures situated next to airports and vital installations: reclamation of public land as they called it.
It’s believed that about 3,000 people were living in the slum that was established in the early 1980s. According to Mitumba residents they had a court order restraining KAA from demolishing their houses. As one resident wondered, “What is the meaning of Kenyan courts if the government can overlook the court order and proceed with the demolitions?”
“The demolition is inevitable because the alternative is a disaster waiting to happen”, said Mr Ngigi. “We’re doing this to save people. If a mishap were to happen, the damage would be catastrophic as the village is directly on the flight path. This is very serious in the aviation industry. As responsible players in the industry, we cannot sit by and wait for a disaster to happen”.
Well said Mr Ngigi, but did it have to take KAA 31 years, to realize this disaster in waiting?
Residents of Eastleigh Section 3 have not been spared. They woke up to a rude shock on Tuesday morning when a fleet of bulldozers began demolishing buildings next to the Moi Air Base. Some of the residents had already left home to work and those that were still in the houses were not even given time to salvage their properties. Their story was that of being ambushed without prior notice, either from their landlords, or from the City Council of Nairobi.
Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan, who condemned the demolitions, said the government must devise better ways of dealing with its citizens. The Eastleigh demolition is the latest after Kyang’ombe, KPA slums, Syokimau and the Embakasi manyattas were ‘bull-dozed’.
DEMOLITIONS AND DIGNITY
What the Kenya Forum fails to understand is why now? The structures have been there for a long period of time while the government has continued to receive revenue from the owners. It’s true that the government has every right to render public utility lands free of illegal encroachment but again it also has a duty to treat its people with dignity as the manner in which the demolitions are being carried out is truly in- humane.
Where do any of these residents go on a rainy Tuesday day at such short notice? Even if they were to try to move to new houses, where do they find vacant houses within their budgets at this time? Any tenant living in Nairobi will tell you house hunting has become more of job hunting, it’s not an easy task.
The big question now is who in the government has been issuing the title deeds that the same government now deems illegal?
WHERE STANDS KENYA’S NEW CONSTITUTION ON THE LAND ISSUE?
The Kenya Forum is also concerned as to what this means in terms of our new constitution.
Kenya’s constitution says that, ‘Land in Kenya shall be held, used and managed in a manner that is equitable, efficient, productive and sustainable…’ (60. (1)). ‘All land in Kenya’, it says, ‘belongs to the people of Kenya collectively as a nation, as communities and as individuals’ (60. (1) – some individuals more than others suspects the Forum!
Many voters didn’t cotton on to the fact at the time of the referendum on the constitution (and the media wouldn’t allow proper debate) that there were major caveats built into its wording when it came to who could control land. Try Section 66. (1) of the constitution: ‘The state may regulate the use of land, or any interest or right over any land, in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, or land use planning’. Pretty much a catch-all clause: the state can do what it likes.
With that thought in mind let’s just pick one item from the news. ‘Bulldozers have demolished high rise buildings near Moi Airbase in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate’, the Daily Nation reported yesterday. ‘The buildings are seen as a security risk to Kenya Air Force planes taking off and landing at the base’, the report continued. After all this time and only now, asks the Forum? But under the new constitution that counts as ‘in the interest of defence’.
There may be some legitimacy to what’s going on but the Kenya Forum has its concerns. We want to know whose hands this land ends up in and what it will now be used for. We will be following this story and reporting back to our readers.