End bru­tal evic­tions, they only con­firm lip ser­vice to hous­ing

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

In the early morn­ing bit­ing cold of July 23, 2018, about 10,000 peo­ple in Nairobi’s Kib­era slum watched in a sleepy haze as their homes and ev­ery­thing they owned were flat­tened by bull­doz­ers to make way for a new road.

Schools were also brought down, forc­ing more than 2,000 learn­ers to dis­con­tinue their school­ing, as were health cen­tres and places of wor­ship.

The scale and bru­tal­ity of the evic­tion drew in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion and con­dem­na­tion. United Na­tions ex­perts, in­clud­ing Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on the Right to Ad­e­quate Hous­ing Leilani Farah, called on the gov­ern­ment to halt it and guar­an­tee the rights to ad­e­quate hous­ing and ed­u­ca­tion.

Un­de­terred, the au­thor­i­ties car­ried out a sim­i­lar evic­tion 10 days later. On Au­gust 3, Kenya Rail­ways Cor­po­ra­tion and

Kenya Power de­mol­ished the homes of 10,000 peo­ple along the rail­way line in Kaloleni and Makon­geni, in Nairobi’s East­lands.

In a des­per­ate frenzy, peo­ple scram­bled to sal­vage their be­long­ings. Once again, the evic­tion was car­ried out with­out ad­e­quate no­tice, con­sul­ta­tion or com­pen­sa­tion and in the pres­ence of heav­ily armed se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

One can­not help but won­der how the gov­ern­ment aims to achieve af­ford­able hous­ing, one of its ‘Big Four’ de­vel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties for the next four years, when it con­tin­ues to ren­der thou­sands of fam­i­lies home­less.

Last week, Kenya signed a deal with the United Na­tions Of­fice for Project Services (UNOPS) to jointly fi­nance 100,000 af­ford­able hous­ing units. But amid a hous­ing deficit of two mil­lion units and evic­tions, the deal is a case of the gov­ern­ment tak­ing one step for­ward and two back.

Evic­tions drive peo­ple deeper into poverty. Once ejected from home, many peo­ple have no choice but to live in even more pre­car­i­ous hous­ing than be­fore. What chance will peo­ple who have been left in a far worse sit­u­a­tion by the gov­ern­ment’s il­le­gal ac­tions have at ac­cess­ing ad­e­quate and af­ford­able hous­ing?

In Nige­ria, thou­sands of peo­ple have been home­less since last year after they were evicted from Otodo-gbame, an in­for­mal set­tle­ment in La­gos.

Fam­i­lies bro­ken up

Fam­i­lies have been bro­ken up and are shel­ter­ing in the nearby in­for­mal set­tle­ments, where many share a room with 20 oth­ers. One woman told Amnesty In­ter­na­tional that, hav­ing lost her home and source of in­come, she now sleeps on card­board boxes and her five chil­dren no longer go to school.

Pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of the megac­ity de­vel­op­ment project by the au­thor­i­ties negates the idea of in­clu­sive­ness and puts lives, liveli­hoods and ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion at risk.

Evic­tions are not solely an ur­ban phe­nom­e­non. Ru­ral ar­eas also wit­ness this hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion. In eswa­tini (for­mally Swazi­land), hun­dreds of sub­sis­tence farm­ers have been left home­less and de­prived of their means of liveli­hood after they were pushed off the land to make way for de­vel­op­ment.

AI doc­u­mented the ex­pe­ri­ences of fam­i­lies evicted in 2014 and this year and their strug­gle to re­build their lives.

“They don’t see us as peo­ple,” said one woman whose home had been de­mol­ished. “They left us out in the open as if we were an­i­mals or some­thing to be thrown away.”

Un­for­tu­nately, many — in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials — be­lieve that peo­ple with­out le­gal ti­tle to the land or house they oc­cupy need not be con­sulted, com­pen­sated or pro­tected from home­less­ness. But in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights law is un­equiv­o­cal: Evic­tions are il­le­gal; they are never jus­ti­fied, even where peo­ple do not have a legally recog­nised right to the land or house that they oc­cupy.

Evic­tions are a grave vi­o­la­tion of the right to hous­ing and of­ten lead to a breach of sev­eral other hu­man rights — such as those to life, food, wa­ter, health, ed­u­ca­tion and work.

As an­other World Habi­tat

Day dawns, lead­ers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers will, once again, pay lip ser­vice to ad­e­quate hous­ing for all. It is time we called them out, raised ques­tions and de­manded an­swers.

Res­i­dents of in­for­mal set­tle­ments in the world are al­ready do­ing so through peace­ful protest. We must join them and re­mind our gov­ern­ments that hous­ing is an in­alien­able hu­man right.

If world lead­ers are se­ri­ous about ad­e­quate and af­ford­able hous­ing for all, end­ing evic­tions is a cru­cial first step to take.

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