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Sweeping the Country: Forced Evictions in kenya

A Word from the Deputy Director

As the newest member of the team, I would like to welcome you to the second issue of our newsletter InformAction Observer, a monthly bulletin that focuses on the work and impact of InformAction (IFA), while working with grassroots communities across Kenya so that they can be “informed” into taking “action” themselves, on the issues that affect them. As a lawyer joining the team, this work with communities has always been an inspiration and I am looking forward to being part of the journey with communities as they speak truth to power and stand up for themselves.

The cold month of July saw mass evictions of families, destruction of schools and wanton disregard for the people who were evicted, with utter disrespect of property rights and human dignity. They are the poorest of poor who have nowhere to go. The destruction of social amenities like schools and churches adds to the hopelessness of communities who are already disenfranchised and living in abject poverty.

Evictions have been a complex issue around the world. Kenya is not the first to deal or not deal with it. The governments push for development in infrastructure is welcome and noble, however this cannot be at the expense of humanity. Albeit the allegations that the structure were illegally erected, the dire need for laws and policies dealing with illegal erection of structures, evictions and displacement, are necessary to deal with this problem.

Additionally, state security officers have used excessive force as they carry out their duties. In a majority of the highlighted stories in this newsletter, security agents have been accused of excessive force during evictions and purported security operations. This is a matter of grave concern as these excesses have made the communities so fearful of the security agents, that the possibility of them actually reporting anything, or them working together is highly unlikely. The role of security agents is to maintain law and order not to destroy and cause havoc.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 in the preamble begins with WE THE PEOPLE. These three words are supposed to be the embodiment of caring about people and ensuring that there is dignity for all. The Constitution further continues; we the people of Kenya - COMMITTED to nurturing and protecting the well being of the individual, the family, communities and the nation: These inhumane demolitions violate the constitution in a fundamental way. Unless legislation and proper enforcement of the law are put in place, the major problems in urban areas of youth unemployment and inadequate housing will persist.

For the diverse audience reading this month’s newsletter, we urge you to take a positive step in influencing the different spheres, a radical shift in how these evictions are carried out. If you are part of the communities evicted, we hope that this edition makes you realise that you are not alone and that IFA is committed to highlighting your plight and telling your story in your own words.

Ivy Kihara

Uncalled For: Evictions in the Maasai Mau Forest of Kenya’s Rift Valley

More than 300 families have been forcefully evicted from the Maasai Mau Forest by the Kenyan government, in a bid to repossess 23,000 hectares from its residents.

The IFA Kericho team monitored these forced evictions on 25th July 2018 and found a camp in Masaita of about 200 evicted people, mostly children and the elderly, surviving in makeshift structures and the extreme cold. The camp lacked basic needs like water, food and medical supplies as it was affected by a poor network in a hilly and rocky area.

IFA discovered two forest cut-lines, one created in 2005 and the other made in 2008 by government. The 2008 cut-line, which seems to be supported by a good number of settlers is marked by a huge strip where the government is growing tea. The residents have now been accused of encroaching.

The residents, despite having not crossed the cut-line, asked why they were being evicted. They also claimed to have voted in this same area, showing that the government had once recognized them as a legal settlement.

The Kenya government has claimed that the settlement was illegal, however the settlers argued that they did not deserve to be evicted as their Title Deeds had been issued by the same government.

IFA put together a short video of victims stories.

The team came across burnt homesteads and destroyed business centres, and the victims claimed that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) had come together to forcefully and brutally evict them. There were also claims of soldiers beating up people during the evictions and destroying their crops.

The affected areas where residents were flushed out were Kosia, Ngoben, Aroruet and Masaita, which lie under South-West Mau. IFA also came across four demolished schools, all of which were government schools. Residents questioned why the government funded the construction of schools only to later demolish them.

The current involvement of local politicians is causing some tension between the Maasai and the Kipsigis communities, which could escalate into tribal clashes in the Mau Complex.

There is an urgent need to establish the forest cut-line beyond dispute. Those who purchased land in the Mau should then be compensated and those who fraudulently sold the forest land should be prosecuted accordingly.

Story by IFA Kericho Team

Killing the Innocent: Kenya Police Operation in Ngaremara, Isiolo

In Early June 2018, a joint police security operation was launched to pursue bandits who stole cattle in Samburu County. The bandits allegedly came from the Turkana community and stole about 400 head of cattle and drove them towards Nasuroi village in Ngaremara.

The IFA Isiolo Team encountered a police shooting on the Isiolo-Moyale road and proceeded to go deeper to film the destroyed homes, interview victims and catch cattle being whisked away by security officers.

Since the start of the operation, the police have allegedly killed eight local people. The dead included two women and two children whose house collapsed after it was hit by a police armoured vehicle in Nasuroi village. The other deceased were all men who were shot and killed in Epiding and Aramaiwoi villages.

Other affected villages include Chumvi yere, Daaba, Nachuroi, Attan, Erimet, Kiwanja, and Ngaremara.

Women and children have fled from the area while other affected people are hiding out in the bushes next to their livestock.

Story by IFA Isiolo Team

'The Others' - Nubians of Kisii in Western Kenya

Nubians, a minority in Kenya are not considered citizens, and are denied Identification documents and land ownership titles, with poor access to any proper social structures.

In June 2017, the Kenya government issued the Nubian community in Kibera Nairobi with a communal title deed. However, Nubians in other parts of the country still remain ‘the others’, and continue to live on ‘state land’, struggling for their very basic human needs.

In July 2017, the IFA Kisii Team organized a leadership debate and film screening in a rural venue called Nubia, in Kitutu Chache Constituency of Kisii County. After the debate, the Nubian community discussed the harsh social economic challenges ranging from the sub-standard social amenities, to unequal representation in local government and the imbalanced infrastructure and development, in contrast to the surrounding locations of Kitutu Chache Constituency. IFA learnt a great deal about the continued struggle of the minority group.

Kisii Nubia, the infamous Kisii slum of about 8,000 residents, is home to poverty, crime, disease. They live without running water or street electricity and with the threat of crime and disease. Sewage from broken sewers flows freely along poorly maintained drainage systems. The majority of the homes are one-room shacks with mud walls, rusted corrugated iron roofs and dirt floors. The only tarmacked roads are in 'non-Nubian territory' surrounding the Nubian settlement.

The original home of the Nilotic-speaking Nubian people is the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. Nubians since independence and release from duty by the British colonial government in Kenya, settled in various towns including Kibera in Nairobi and in Kisumu, Western Kenya. Another small group of less than 20 families settled in Kisii Town of Western Kenya in 1914. Their descendants are today settled in Nubia and Igare villages, overlooking the Kisii Town central business district in Kisii County.

In June 2018, a Nubia community leader triggered our revisit after watching our video feature Kilio Cha Haki. He called us to capture and highlight the neglected Nubian community in Kisii County.

The community was very responsive to the IFA Team told their story through our short video feature: ‘The Others’.

The Kisii Nubia continue to encounter great obstacles in their quest for statehood and identity. The IFA Team plan to explore and define, with their leadership, a Community Action Team (CAT) to help coordinate the process of demanding for their issues to be addressed by the relevant accountable elected leaders.

The IFA Kisii Team maintain constant communication with the Nubian community and work to spearhead their agenda to the end.

Story by IFA Kisii Team

Paving the Way? Disrespect for Property Rights and Human Dignity in Kibera

Residents of Mashinomi, Lindi, Kisumu Ndogo and Kambi Muru villages in Kibera slum in Nairobi woke up to demolition of their houses by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) on the 23rd of July 2018, to pave way for the construction of a dual carriage link road.

The early morning demolitions by KURA were conducted under a heavy contingent of the Administration Police, causing destruction of property that left thousands of residents homeless and depriving them of access to social amenities like schools, hospitals and also access to water.

The victims recounted on film, how the government officials took down their personal details on Friday and did not disclose when the actual eviction would take place. The bulldozers then began destroying the structures on Monday morning.

A huge number of residents have been left out in the cold, with some seeking shelter within the same slum. Amnesty International estimates that at least 30,000 people were affected by the demolitions, although KURA issued a statement indicating that only 2,000 people were affected.

KURA acted in total disregard of the International law which guarantees a right to adequate housing to all.

The UN Handbook on Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement, outlines that prior to an eviction, all the potentially affected persons should get appropriate notice that an eviction is being considered in their area. In addition, authorities should provide relevant information to the affected persons including a proposed comprehensive resettlement plan specifically addressing efforts to protect the vulnerable groups while allowing a reasonable time period for public review of the proposed plans. Holding of public hearings that provide affected persons and their advocates with opportunities to challenge the eviction decision should also be allowed at this stage.

During evictions, the handbook notes that the dignity and human rights to life and security of those affected should not be violated. Further, steps should be taken to ensure that women are not subject to the gender-based violence and human rights of children have been are protected.

As the State pushes for the Big Four agenda on development, it is paramount and necessary to have national legislation that specifically deals with forced evictions and displacement due to development, to ensure that Kenya's human rights record does not worsen.

Story by IFA Nairobi Team

Killing and going Scot-free on the Kenyan Coast

There have been numerous reports of brutal indiscriminate police killings in Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi Counties on the Kenyan coast.

On the 28th June 2018 the IFA Mombasa Team received a call from a contact in Karimani Village in Kilifi County, IFA had earlier conducted a film screening in the village. The individual told the the team that a family from the village had been trying to find their missing son since the 25th June 2018.

The Mariakani police told the family to visit the Coast Provincial General Hospital mortuary in Mombasa County, where they identified the body of their missing son.

Katana Kazungu Fondo, who was a Standard Seven pupil at Ndatani Primary School, died when police allegedly shot at a crowd that was pushing a vehicle stuck in the mud after a heavy downpour.

The IFA Mombasa team caught up with the family along the Jomvu road on their way back home to Kilifi County. Amidst the grieving and confusion, the family was advised to seek justice by reporting the issue to the relevant human rights institutions. The family agreed to return to Mombasa that evening to meet with HAKI Africa and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA).

The parents, Kazungu Fondo and his wife Ndoko Kazungu, accompanied by their relatives and the village elder Mzee Tanga went to the HAKI Africa and IPOA offices to record their statements.

IFA filmed the eyewitness and victim testimonies of the Katana Kazungu killing.

The IFA team were witness to the post-mortem exercise that confirmed that Katana’s death was caused by a close range bullet that penetrated his upper back-right side through his lungs and heart.

Following protests by the residents, two Kilifi police officers who were suspected to have killed the pupil have been suspended. However, the family continues to wait for justice.

The Constitution of Kenya demands that police officers embrace professionalism, be accountable and respect the right to life, other human rights and fundamental freedoms at all times.

Story by IFA Mombasa Team

An IFA Success Story: Recognizing the Colonial Villages in Central Kenya

The Colonial villages that spread across the central region of Kenya are informal settlements created by the British colonialists in 1954. The settlements kept the natives in restricted areas and prevented them from joining their kinsmen who were in the forests fighting for freedom.

In 1968 through land demarcation, the colonial village residents were to be returned to their former lands by the first African government. However, this process was riddled with favouritism, bribery and victimization. This resulted in a huge number losing their former lands to those with money and power.

The subsequent governments and leaders made no effort to resettle the residents. This generated discrimination in access to and ownership of land, infrastructure and social amenities. A group of people remained without land ownership documents and were squatting in contentious areas of land, under the rule of the county council. This in effect robbed the colonial villages residents of all their land related rights (social economic rights).

For over 50 years the residents have been trying to advocate for ownership documents or resettlement, with no success. Over the years subsequent governments introduced resettlement schemes for the landless, and each time only a handful were re-settled. An example is in the case of Solio ranch in Laikipia which saw an unprecedented level of land grabbing by the political class.

IFA Nyeri Team have been systematically targeting the colonial villages for film screenings and post screening debates. This has resulted in residents feeling inspired to take action.

In 2016, the colonial village residents formed a Community Action Team (CAT) and, with the help of IFA, wrote a petition and presented it to the County government of Nyeri.

The county government of Nyeri recognized the colonial village CAT and co-opted three members into the planning and surveying committee.

In the 2017/18 budget allocation, there was a focus physical planning and surveying, and the surveyed colonial villages were listed for the issuance of title deeds. In June 2017, the government issued Title Deeds to some of the residents of the colonial villages.

However, this was not the case for all the residents and many were not issued with Title Deeds resulting in land conflicts. The landowners who border the colonial villages felt the land should have been returned to them as they claimed to have contributed a section of their original land to create the colonial village.

Conflict also exists between the colonial village residents and the churches in the area. The churches were allocated large portions of land and still continue to grab more land, through the illegal allocations allowed by the Chiefs.

Finally, there is no community goodwill to resettle the residents as they provide cheap labour to the landowners.

The issuance of title deeds to the colonial village residents for the small plots is not the lasting solution since they still do not have a decent livelihood. Resettlement to a larger portion of land would be a better solution.

Story by IFA Nyeri Team

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