Big Story 10

Despair as bulldozers destroy hundreds of homes in Kenya's biggest slum

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Kenya’s largest slum was woken on Monday by the sounds of cranes and bulldozers that demolished hundreds of shanties overnight to make way for a road, leaving desperate residents homeless.

Kibera lies on the outskirts of Nairobi and is one of Africa’s largest slums, home to more than 400,000 people, but parts of it are being demolished for a new road to ease congestion in the capital.

Construction started in 2016 and there have been earlier demolitions, but residents said the latest move had taken them by surprise as authorities had promised compensation and advance notice of any forced evictions.

“We were raised here, we went to school here and we got married here. Now we don’t know where to go,” said Jacqueline Anzemo, a 30-year-old mother of three who has lived in Kibera since 2002.

“They came took our names and identification numbers and said they will come give us rent for three months so that we can go somewhere else,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“They have not given us anything and already they’ve thrown us out. Where are we supposed to go?”

Rights groups accused the government of going back on an agreement to delay construction pending an agreement.

Amnesty International said the demolitions went against an agreement between Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA), a government agency, and rights groups to halt forced evictions until a resettlement plan had been agreed.

“Demolition prior to the completion of (the) Resettlement Action Plan betrays the public trust and violates our laws,” said Houghton Irungu, executive director for Kenya.

KURA declined to comment directly on the claim, directing the Thomson Reuters Foundation to a statement it made on Friday saying it was working with rights groups and local leaders on a plan to resettle people affected by the project.

Construction of the road began in 2016 and in March that year residents of the slum filed two legal challenges to the planned demolition of their homes.

But a judge ruled last year that the road was in the public interest and threw out the challenges.

Rights groups say the demolitions, which are expected to affect 30,000 residents of Kibera, highlight the difficulties faced by mostly poor people living in informal settlements as African cities expand rapidly.

As he watched a crane flatten a school behind him Arthur Shakwira, who has lived in Kibera for more than 20 years, wondered how he would find a new home for his family.

“I’ve taken my belongings to a neighbor. My wife and kids have moved to my brother’s place to stay there for the time being. I don’t know where to start from,” he said.

“We’ve not refused for the road to pass but they need to consider our wellbeing.”