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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kenya: Plan to Demolish Riverside Shanties Postponed

allAfrica.com
Dec 18 2009
By George Omondi


The government has postponed its plans to demolish informal settlements along Nairobi river basin due to lack of a resettlement site.

The environment ministry officials say various alternative sites have been suggested but evictions will not be conducted until an agreement is reached with the affected people to ensure that none of them is rendered homeless during the exercise.

"Our main target is to clean the rivers but to do so, some people will have to be resettled to other areas," said Mr Hudson Mukanga, an assistant director of environment in charge of Nairobi Rivers Rehabilitation Programme (NRRP)

He added, "We have left the component that entails moving people and structures pending until an alternative land that can accommodate all the affected residents is identified."

Human Rights groups had earlier raised fears of a fresh humanitarian crisis following the government's directive that the slum dwellers should give way for the implementation of NRRP.

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) estimates that 127,000 people have encroached on Nairobi's riparian lands.

Amnesty International-Kenya and the Nairobi Youth Human Rights Network have been collecting signatures from Nairobi residents with the aim of blocking eviction of the slum dwellers, without giving them alternative land.

When it broached the idea of cleaning up the three rivers in Nairobi almost a year ago, the Government promised to develop guidelines on evictions and even formed a task force in 2006 to devise a humane plan for the exercise.

But human rights groups, alarmed by the time it has taken to develop the guidelines, warned that the vacuum was setting stage for violent evictions that could create another group of people in need of special care.

"Even at the moment, the reality on the ground is that small-scale forced evictions of people living in informal settlements regularly occur in contravention of international human rights standards," said Mr Moses Opiyo, a youth coordinator with Transparency International.

The Sh14.5 billion clean-up exercise is funded by donors, among them the Nairobi-headquartered United Nations Environmental Programme.

Addressing parliament recently, Environment Assistant Minister Ramadhan Kajembe, said just over Sh355 million had been spent in the NRRP, mainly in removing solid waste from the river courses and in planting trees along their banks.

The red flag of the rights groups was raised at a time that the government has been fighting to save its face over the Mau Forest complex evictions that have created a new crop of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), even before all Kenyans displaced in the last year's post election violence were resettled.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga says all the Mau evictees who are holding genuine title deeds will be allocated alternative land by the government.

However, the human rights groups and a section of the Rift Valley have censured the government for evicting the settlers before giving the alternative land.

The plan to evict a section of Nairobi slum dwellers goes back to July last year when the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) announced it would move some 127,000 people from the banks of Nairobi, Ngong and Mathare rivers to pave way for the clean up their basins.

At the time, Nema Director General Dr Muusya Mwinzi said the plan whose implementation would involve the demolition of some 4,236 structures erected on the riparian land targeted slums like Mathare Valley, Kosovo, Huruma and Mathare North where 32,940 people would be resettled and 3,820 structures demolished.

Also included in the plan are 37,350 people and 1,245 structures spread out in Kianda, Gatwikira, Kisumu Ndogo, Lindi, Siranga, Soweto, Line Saba, Mashimoni and other villages in Kibera.

The clean-up, Dr Mwinzi announced, would also see the removal of 1,290 people and 43 structures in Kyambio slums, 34,380 people and 1,146 structures in Mukuru slums; 1,230 people and 41 structures in Museum/Race Course, 780 people and 26 structures along RC-Gikomba; and 15,840 people and their 528 structures in Gikomba.

It is estimated that resettling all the affected people will cost the government Sh1.5 billion.

In June this year, Nema officials announced that it has already identified a 200-acres piece of land in Mwiki area.