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February 19, 2004-02-23

Honorable Mr. Joe Akech Honorable Mr. Sigei Most Rev. Bishop
Mayor of Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Ndingi Mwana N’zeki


Peace be with you! We are writing this letter on behalf of the pastoral teams of the Catholic Parishes in the Informal Settlements “Kutoka/Exodus” to express our grave concern about the ongoing and threatened forced evictions that are taking place in Nairobi’s informal settlements.

As we know you are aware, there are several ministries that have announced plans to demolish certain areas of the city; namely the Ministry of Roads and Public Works is demolishing houses in Kibera and other areas to make way for the by-pass. In addition, the Minister of Energy is planning to demolish houses that are near to power lines in a number of our communities including Korogocho, Kibera, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Lunga Lunga, Shauri Moyo and other areas. The Ministry of Local Government is demolishing structures that are near to roads. And finally, the Kenya Railways Corporations is planning to demolish structures that are along the rail line.

These threatened demolitions have caused widespread panic, fear and confusion in our communities. Of immediate concern to us is the likelihood that tens of thousands of people will be rendered homeless and left with nowhere to go. In addition, we are concerned that the evictions will provoke physical conflict and violence. Already slum dwellers are scuffling over who will occupy the limited space that will be available after the demolitions. There is also the threat that structure owners will physically try to resist the evictions, which will inevitably result in violence.

Moreover, we are very concerned that the government is undertaking these forced evictions without regard to the law or established human rights norms. (See Gusii Mwalimu Investment Co. Ltd. And Two Others vs. Ms. Mwalimu Hotel Kisii Ltd., Civil Appeal No. 180 of 1995. Penal code, Chapter 63, Laws of Kenya; the Rent Restriction Act, Chapter 296, Laws of Kenya and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 8, Section 8 (a) and General Comment No. & (to which Kenya is a signatory) ).
There has been no official notice given to the potentially affected parties that their structures will be demolished. (Rumors and general statements made in newspaper on radio do not constitute the adequate and reasonable notice as required by law.)
Nor has the government consulted with the communities or informed them about the parameters of evictions. People do not know when and if they are going to be evicted.
And most notably, the government has not provided the people living in the slums any play for resettlement or alternative housing, which Is a basic minimum requirements of the government when it undertakes forced evictions. This applies even when the evictions or justified or somehow necessary.
It is a fundamental human rights principle that any process to evict people must follow a peaceful and lawful process that protects the rights and dignity. Development of any kind cannot take precedence over the human rights of the poor. All of the justifications proffered for the “necessary” forced evictions do not absolve the governments from its legal obligation under the laws to give adequate notice, consult the community and to prepare and implement a plan for resettlement for the affected residents.
We recognize the current situation in our communities is very complex. The purported reason for the evictions is that it is dangerous for people to live near the rail lines, roads and power lines. That position is indisputable. However, the historical context in which people came to live in these areas must be taken into consideration. Virtually all of the people who have put up structures in the slums have paid a “fee” to the local administration including the chiefs, wazee wa vijiji and the police in some cases in exchange or the official permission of the local administration to stay there. People have occupied space near the rail line, roads and under power lines for decades and they have occupied these places with the full knowledge and sanction of the government. To suggest that they must be removed in three days or three weeks time because of imminent danger is not realistic, fair or reasonable.

In addition to the short term threat of violence and chaos for our communities, the long-term negative implications for the economic and social development of our people are very serious. The demolitions will affect not only dwelling places but also a large number of kiosks, dukas and open-air markets. Hundreds of people will lose their business and only source of income. The unavoidable result will be greater impoverishment and hardship to families who are already struggling to survive. Moreover, the involuntary displacement that will accompany these evictions is not limited to the physical dislocation of families, houses, business, schools and churches. It also involves a significant dismantling of the neighborhoods, families, culture and the communities the poor living in the slums.

Forced evictions of this scope and nature are unprecedented in Nairobi. To render thousands of people homeless in a matter of a few days is in essence a campaign of unlawful slum eradication. This kind of a programme simply cannot be sanctioned in a democratic nation.

We believe that these threatened evictions are very serious and pose a tremendous danger to tens of thousands of slum dwellers. While we do not oppose the government’s attempts to develop the city, we believe there must be a legal and humane process followed. As the pastoral agents in the communities that will be greatly affected, we believe the Catholic Church must speak out for the rights of our people. There must be adequate notice given, consultation and plans for resettlement. It is our hope that we can join together in making this plea for a dignified and legal process to be followed.

On behalf of the entire Network, we thank you for your efforts and we are hopeful that we can be a voice of our people in a time of great need.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Franco Cellana, Consolata Shrine, Westlands
Fr. Daniele Moschetti, St. John’s Catholic Church, Korogocho/ Kariobangi
Fr. Raul Nava, Christ the King Church, Line Saba, Kibera

Network members

Consolata Shrine, Westlands
St. John’s , Korogocho
Christ the King, Line Saba, Kibera
St. Joseph and Mary, Shauri Moyo
St. Joseph’s, Kangemi
St. Theresa’s Eastleigh
St. Joseph’s, Kahawa West
Christ the King, Embakasi
Holy Cross, Dandora
Our Lady Queen of Peace, South B
Holy Trinity, Kariobangi
Holy Mary Mother of God, Githurai
Sacred Heart, Dagoretti
St. Mary’s, Mukuru
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Adams’ Arcade