By Gemma Houldey, Amnesty International’s Kenya Researcher
At around 4am on Friday 10 May 2013, while members of the newly elected Kenyan government were tucked warmly in their beds, about 400 families were violently evicted from their homes. They were residents of City Carton informal settlement in the capital,Nairobi. I visited the settlement later that day and was able to speak to some of them.
Residents described how, before the break of dawn, they were woken by groups of young men who burst into their homes, forcing them out. One resident, a casual labourer called Branham, aged 28, said: “I was first aware of the demolitions at 5 am, when I could hear people outside wailing. When I came out, I started seeing the police and the youth, and that’s when I realized they were going into the houses and demolishing.” About 200 men wielding crowbars and sledgehammers carried out the demolitions.
Chaos followed and the 170 police officers, who had encircled the settlement, did nothing to protect residents. Some were beaten and many had their property looted. Residents claim at least five gunshots were fired and showed us two bullet casings found in the rubble – as well as five teargas canisters used during the operation. Mariam, 21 years old and the mother of a seven month old baby, told us: “The police fired a teargas shell and it fell towards me and my baby… My child got sick because of the teargas so we took her to the hospital. Now she is crying because she hasn’t eaten… there is nothing to cook on, nothing to eat.”
Reduced to rubble
One week later, the entire settlement was reduced to rubble. A bulldozer arrived on 17 May and flattened everything in its path, leaving the residents with a pile of salvaged belongings and nowhere to go. That same day – just after the first sitting of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s new cabinet – we were informed that more evictions had occurred at a neighbouring settlement called Opendo, home to at least 600 families.
So far at least 12 houses have been demolished. These are the first such evictions Amnesty International has recorded in Nairobi since the elections in March, and the election of the new Nairobi County Governor, Evans Kidero.
When we spoke with senior police officials in Nairobi, their responses ranged from denying knowledge of the demolitions altogether to claiming they were lawful. What is certain is that neither City Carton or Opendo communities were given any notice of the evictions. Now the entire population of City Carton is homeless and those living at Opendo live with the fear that the men hired by the landowner who carried out the demolitions will return.
We need your help
In partnership with a coalition of local organizations, Amnesty International has been lobbying the national government for the last three years to create legislation which protects communities from violent evictions like this one, and proper legal guidelines for resettlement. This is an issue we intend to carry forward with the new Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development Charity Ngilu, and it is something the people of Kenya support.
Amnesty International members all over the world are calling on Governor Kidero to stop any further demolitions. You can, too – by sending a letter to him and leaving messages on his social media platforms. We are calling for the Governor to ensure that all residents who have been forcibly evicted have immediate access to food, water, healthcare services and shelter and that an impartial investigation into the 10 and 17 May forced evictions at City Carton is carried out as soon as possible.
A forced eviction is an eviction which is undertaken without legal protections such as genuine consultation with affected communities to identify all feasible alternatives to evictions, provision of adequate notice and legal remedies, compensation and adequate alternative housing for those who cannot provide for themselves.
Send a letter to Governor Kidero in English, German or French, calling on him to provide essential support and shelter to evictees. Post a message on his Facebook page and on his Twitter account @KideroEvans.
Join our Facebook group for global rapid response to forced evictions.
Find out more about evictions in Kenya and elsewhere. Read “Spotlight on a scandal” on pp.10-11 of the May/June issue of Wire.