August 1, 2018 / 5:03 PM / 2 months ago

Kenyans ask court to halt slum evictions as thousands lose homes

NAIROBI, Aug 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hundreds of slum residents have asked a Kenyan court to stop them being evicted from state-owned land, their lawyer said on Wednesday, a week after authorities demolished the homes of 30,000 Nairobians living in one of Africa’s largest slums.

The National Building Inspectorate, a state agency in charge of housing safety, issued a notice to residents in six Nairobi slums on July 19 warning that their houses would be demolished in August.

“We want them to be given time to move,” said lawyer Soyinka Lempaa, who is representing about 300 slum residents.

“(Evictions) should be done in accordance with the law and as humanely as possible,” said Lempaa, who works with the Katiba Institute rights group.

Moses Nyakiongora, secretary of the National Building Inspectorate, said in a phone interview that people had invaded and built on Kenya Railways and Kenya Power’s land and resisted efforts to relocate them.

“There is encroachment with impunity, even where orders have been given,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“People live very dangerously, even near railways and power lines, and when something happens they claim compensation from government. We need to do something now.”

International law regards forced eviction as a gross violation of human rights, regardless of whether or not the land was occupied legally, as it can push people deeper into poverty.

Kenyan law says people illegally occupying public land should only be evicted after receiving three months notice, but it does not oblige the government to offer them alternative housing, the advocacy group Amnesty International says.

Thousands of shanties were bulldozed last week in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and home to some 400,000 people, to make way for a road.

Amnesty International said the demolitions left 30,000 residents homeless, highlighting the difficulties faced by poor people living in slums as African cities expand rapidly.

About half of Africa’s 470 million city residents live in informal settlements, a figure that is expected to rise as the World Bank predicts the continent’s urban population will double to 1 billion people by 2040.

Kenya’s rail and power companies own huge tracts of land nationwide as safety buffers where their lines pass and for future expansion, although much of it has been encroached on.

Reporting by Kevin Mwanza; editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/

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