Forced mass evictions a violation of human rights
As campaigns for the 2022 General Election mount, the candidates must urgently address a critical issue affecting citizens besides politics and the economy – violation of human rights.
A recent manifestation of this blatant violation of basic human rights is the forced evictions at the Mukuru Kwa Njenga informal settlement.
The mass displacement of residents, according to the authorities, is meant to create an exit road for the Nairobi Expressway.
While there is a need for the development and provision of infrastructure for essential services, they must be carried out humanely and with strict regard to the Constitution.
The preamble of the Constitution, upholding the supremacy of God and the people, recognises the aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social, environmental justice and the rule of law.
Forced evictions in urban informal settlements, gazetted forests and public land, violate internationally and nationally recognised human rights, affecting people’s social and economic livelihoods.
Rampant corrupt practices in the land and urban housing sector interlinked with the forced evictions further violate human rights. Forced evictions should therefore be strongly condemned.
The Mukuru Kwa Njenga forced evictions to mirror those of May last year in the Kariobangi North Sewerage settlement, and surrounding areas, and the Ruai informal settlement that left 8,000 people out in the cold.
Excavators demolished homes, churches, shops and schools and destroyed personal belongings. The wanton force was used with no compensation or resettlement of residents despite a government dusk-to-dawn Covid-19 curfew.
On October 1, 2020, around 3,000 residents of Dagoretti Corner settlement were evicted by Kenya Railways and Kenya Power and Lighting Company, despite a presidential moratorium on evictions.
The UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing Balakrishnan Rajagopal, and the situation of human rights defenders-Mary Lawlor, demanded that the government halt all evictions and protect the safety of human rights defenders.
Destroying the homes of thousands of persons without any alternative accommodation, constitutes a grave violation of multiple rights, exacerbating the impact on the rights to health and life of thousands of Kenyans.
Forced mass evictions carried to facilitate development, infrastructure projects and conservation initiative are carried in the absence of sustainable urban planning and inclusive social policies.
State obligation to refrain from, and protect against, forced evictions from home(s) and land arise from several international legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Resolutions at the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) asserted just human and environmental governance. Threats to humanity require effective responses that promote peace, justice, development and fulfilment of environmental and human rights.
The three government arms – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – must strictly adhere to the rules, policies and institutions shaping our day-to-day lives. They are under constitutional obligation to promote, protect and respect human rights.
Equally, the media and civil society should step up their role and influence policies and law-making processes that protect human rights to ensure all citizens breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and sleep safely at night.
In the sacred duty to enable people to live dignified lives, no one should be left behind.