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Nairobi’s Demolitions

D 14 février 2022     H 05:30     A     C 0 messages

In Kenya, a mass government demolition campaign began in October. Bulldozers destroyed at least 13,000 homes, along with businesses and schools, and displaced some 76,000 people. Forced evictions in Nairobi’s informal settlements are common, but demolitions on this scale, causing a humanitarian crisis, are rare.

The demolitions and evictions have shined a bright light on the historical injustices and state corruption shaping Nairobi’s rapid urban development. While these projects have provided comfort and convenience to the city’s rich, they have unleashed extreme violence on the poor of the informal settlements, who make up the majority of Nairobi’s population.

Following independence, the population of the informal settlements exploded, tripling within two decades, as scores migrated from the villages to the city in search of work. Throughout the decades after independence, widespread political corruption passed these public lands, where the informal settlements are located, into the hands of private individuals from among Kenya’s political elite. These elites often used the acquired land as collateral to access loans from banks. When landowners failed to pay back the loans they had taken out, banks assumed ownership.

Seventy percent of Nairobi’s population live in the informal settlements that make up just 5 percent of the city’s residential area. These homes are often made of corrugated tin sheets and lack access to adequate sewage, electricity, or water systems.

“No one here trusts this government,” says Frank Bett, vice chairman of the Mukuru Community Justice Center, "They have made several promises to us since the evictions, and not one of them has been fulfilled. It’s been three months since these evictions, and the government has done nothing. People are still sleeping in tents, and the police are still attacking us. We will believe what the government says when we see it. Until then, no one believes them."

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