Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Home | Contact us | Search
Our mission | MOGC publications | Staff members | Our partners | Contact us
Africa | Asia | Middle East | Latin America | United Nations |
War is not the answer | Arms control/proliferation | U.S. military programs/policies | Security | Alternatives to violence
Maryknoll Land Ethic Process | Climate change | GMOs | Water | U.S. energy policy | Earth Charter |
Trade/Investment | Foreign debt | Millennium Devel. Goals | Corporate accountability | Int'l financial institutions | Work | Economic alternatives
Indigenous peoples | Migrants | Children | Women | People with HIV/AIDS
Educational resources | Contact policymakers | Links | MOGC publications |
Subscribe | NewsNotes archive

Kenya: Nairobi’s two million slum dwellers
NewsNotes, July-August 2009

Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity Campaign, launched in May 2009, addresses the human rights violations that drive and deepen poverty. According to its description in AfricaFiles (6/1/09), the Amnesty International (AI) campaign “demonstrates the connection between deprivation, insecurity, exclusion, and denial of opportunities for people to participate in decisions that affect their lives.” The overall goal of the campaign is to end the human rights violations that keep people poor. Much of the following article is taken from AI:

As part of the campaign, on June 12 Amnesty International released a report, “The unseen majority: Nairobi’s two million slum dwellers,” on the dire conditions and gross human rights abuses endured in Nairobi’s informal settlements. The report describes how half of Nairobi’s population lives in informal settlements, but is crammed into only five percent of the city’s residential area and just one percent of all land in the city.

Successive Kenyan governments have failed to protect slum dwellers; years of neglect by politicians have allowed informal settlements to swell, turning their residents into prisoners of poverty.

In the report, slum dwellers themselves describe a life characterized by deprivation, rising food prices, lack of health and education facilities, harassment by the authorities and the constant threat of being forcibly evicted. According to victims, forced evictions are often conducted at night or in bad weather conditions and excessive force is often deployed. Inadequate notice, or often no notice at all, is given and people’s belongings are destroyed along with their homes.

The report identifies up to 127,000 people at immediate risk of having their makeshift homes and informal businesses demolished under a government-led plan to clean up the Nairobi River Basin.

Despite a national housing policy adopted four years ago that promised the progressive realization of the right to housing, the government has failed to provide accessible, affordable housing. The slum upgrading program has been too slow and under resourced. Residents feel they have not been adequately consulted on its implementation.

The report draws on interviews with individuals and focus group discussions conducted by Amnesty International delegates in December 2008 and February/March 2009 with more than 200 residents of five informal settlements and slums in Nairobi: Deep Sea, Kibera, Korogocho, Mathare, and Mukuru Kwa Njenga. Those interviewed included both landlords/structure owners and tenants. The report also draws on interviews with government officials, in particular officials in the Ministry of Housing and the Nairobi City Council, as well as representatives of UN agencies, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations working in and on the slums and informal settlements. The report’s findings are further informed by extensive published and unpublished research on the housing situation in the settlements by UN agencies and by local and international NGOs.

The report ends with a series of recommendations to the Kenyan government:

  • Immediately cease all forced evictions, legislate and enforce a clear prohibition on forced evictions, and develop and adopt guidelines for evictions that comply with international human rights law. Until such steps have been taken, impose a moratorium on mass evictions.
  • In relation to planned mass evictions regarding the Nairobi River Basin Program and planned construction of government infrastructure, ensure genuine consultation with the affected communities to identify all feasible alternatives to evictions, put in place appropriate procedural and legal safeguards, and develop a comprehensive relocation and compensation plan.
  • Ensure that implementation of the slum upgrading program complies with the government’s obligations in relation to the right to adequate housing. This includes the obligation to consult adequately with affected communities regarding slum upgrading and to ensure the affordability and accessibility of housing, particularly for the most disadvantaged sections of the community.
  • Ensure that the slum upgrading program and policies address immediate needs in relation to security of tenure and access to essential services, in addition to medium- and long-term goals.
  • Ensure a minimum degree of security of tenure that guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats, including for those living in informal settlements and slums, in line with government commitments under the slum upgrading strategy.
  • Ensure, as pledged in the official housing policy, the development of low-income housing to meet the housing needs of the majority of urban poor, giving priority to the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in allocating public housing.
  • Ensure the right to adequate housing and other economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in international human rights treaties to which Kenya is a party are included in the proposed new Constitution and reflected in domestic legislation.

The following recommendations are made to UN-HABITAT and UN Environment Program (UNEP):

  • Ensure that the collaborative projects, in particular the Kenya Slum Upgrading Program (involving UN-HABITAT) and the Nairobi River Basin Program (involving UNEP) comply with human rights standards, including the government’s obligation to consult properly the affected communities.
  • Assist the Kenyan government - both central and local authorities - in fulfilling its obligations to guarantee the right to adequate housing.
About us | Privacy Policy | Legal  |  Contact us
© 2010 Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns