For the second day
running, Kenya continued to attract global attention over its
contradictory approach at addressing the plight of its urban poor.
one side, delegates attending the 12th Session of Commission on
Sustainable Development have repeatedly praised the unique partnership
between the government of Finland and Kenya which saw the former
forgive a $1.5 million (Ksh107 million) debt Kenya owed it on
condition that the government availed a 100-acre piece of land to
temporarily house Kibera residents as the slum was being upgraded.
first revelation of the swap, which took place close to a year ago,
was made by the Director of Housing, Mrs Grace Wanyonyi, who told
delegates that the government of Finland had agreed to forgive Kenya
the debt after the latter identified the said land in Athi river. The
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and
Natural Resources later reiterated this, Mrs Rachael Arunga who is
heading the Kenyan delegation here.
what the Kenyan delegation did not reveal here was that the swap
became controversial after Kibera residents refused to be relocated
fearing that they would lose the proximity they currently have to main
employment areas in Nairobi - the Central Business District and
However, the swap has repeatedly received numerous praises by
delegates who say it is a unique financing mechanism would go a long
way in alleviating the sufferings slum dwellers go through.
Many delegates have called for similar arrangements between developing
countries and donors.
hardly had the official Kenyan delegation settled to bask in the
apparent limelight than the global audience was told of the sufferings
that the recently shelved evictions and demolitions had caused to
residents in a number of slums in Nairobi.
Director of Pamoja Trust, Ms Jane Weru, fired the first salvo.
a moving speech, that received widespread ovation from the highly
attentive audience, Ms Weru narrated how the Kenya Railways
Corporation had decided, and gone ahead, to evict people living and
doing business close to the rail line three months ago.
was ostensibly done to improve Kenya’s infrastructure, but you cannot
do this before improving the lives of the people" she said on Thursday
what was seen here as a face-saving rejoinder, the government took to
the floor today (i.e. Friday) to defend itself against Ms Weru’s
"The Kenya government gave the relevant residents notices and, even
after doing this, we temporarily halted the evictions in order to
reduce the effect on the residents" said Mrs Arunga.
government’s plan of constructing 150,000 housing units in urban areas
and improving an additional 300,000 units in rural areas each year,
which Mrs Arunga had said was embedded in a Sessional Paper on
National Housing Policy, has also been criticized by Kenyan-based Non
Governmental Organisations (NGO) attending the conference.
the government has taken every opportunity to talk about this project,
I am not aware of any budgetary allocation for it" said a housing
policy expert, Mr Nicky Nzioki.
her part, Ms Weru said; "it is not the role of government to build
houses for Kenyans. In the contrary, the government must make the
conditions right by addressing itself to what prevents the poor from
building houses." As a starting point, Ms Weru said, the government
must enable poor slum dwellers have access to land and to affordable
despite stating obvious weaknesses and contradictions in housing
policy, the official Kenya government delegation has, over the last
four days, made an impressive performance as a number of its
statements have, on a number of occasions, been hailed as show cases
by other delegations including the United States.
two weeks global conference entered its fifth day today (i.e Friday)
with calls been made on governments and NGOs to allow grassroots
organizations of the poor to drive the process of uplifting their
representative of the Indian-based Slum Dwellers International, Mr
Joakin Apurtham, narrated to an attentive audience how the over 5
million slum and ‘pavement’ people of Mumbai city have, over the last
decade, been involved in improving sanitation in the city. "As a
result, slum dwellers themselves have so far designed and constructed
over 8,000 public toilets."
Dubbed the 12th Session of Commission on Sustainable Development, the
conference is meant to have delegates discuss the progress the world
has made in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on water,
sanitation and human settlements.
MDGs on the three issues were set following the adoption of the
Johannesburg Plan of Implementation during the World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Among other things, MDGs target easing the suffering of at least 100
million slum residents by 2020 and on reducing the number of people
experiencing absolute poverty by half before 2015.
However, the Conference was told that the world has not made much
headway. For instance, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs Anna
Tibaijuka, said that the current population of 930 million people
living in slums world wide will rise to more than 2 billion by the
target year if the world does not act now to stem rising poverty.
Much of the discussions this week has seen technical teams from all
the countries in the world make presentations on the performance of
their countries in meeting MDGs and engage in lengthy discussions on
what has hindered progress.
Next week, the discussions will go to a higher level with ministers
taking official proclamation and positions on the issues that were
discussed by technical teams.
Kenya’s Environment Minister, Dr Newton Kulundu, his Water Development
counterpart, Ms Martha Karua and the Minister for Roads, Public Works
and Housing, Mr Raila Odinga, are expected to represent Kenya.