By Elisaphan Onchiri Nyangechi
Mukuru Kwa Njenga is one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi county with over 40,000 residents. Most residents in the area are engaged in small-scale businesses alongside casual jobs in the expansive Nairobi industrial area.
However, most inhabitants are living with the fear of eviction amid rising controversy over the land ownership. For instance, early this year, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) announced that several residents will be evicted as part of expanding the Catherine Ndereba road.
Locals got a reprieve after the court dismissed the eviction order. As per the judgement by Justice Oguttu Mboya, the case filed by a section of the slum dwellers was not substantiated. Residents also claimed that they were not involved in the design process by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority.
In that context, Orbit Chemicals Ltd, which claims to own part of the disputed road asked the court to dismiss the case filed by residents. According to Chandaria who is the representative of the company, the firm was acquired from the National Bank of Kenya in a public auction and the eviction process was part of reoccupying the land.
The Nairobi CIDP report notes that Nairobi County has an annual housing demand of
150,000 to 200,000 housing units yet only about 15,000 development applications were
submitted in 2013. The shortfall of housing supply for the low income is met through the proliferation of slums and informal settlements, with over 60% of the residents in Nairobi living in informal settlements.
Despite their large number, and planned slum upgrades, slum dwellers in general have faced challenges, the greatest of these being high poverty levels.
Wrangles in Mukuru emerged in January this year after police enforcing the eviction notice engaged in running battles with the youth. Several members of the public were injured in the melee as explained by one of the residents.
It’s alleged that officers involved in the demolition had ulterior motives to grab the land. A lot of families were rendered homeless. The incident elicited mixed reactions from leaders in the area. For instance, Embakasi South Member of Parliament Musili Mawatha noted that the demolitions were illegal since there are still ongoing talks with the government over the issue.
On the other hand, Orbit Chemical Ltd representative affirmed that they have ownership documents for the land acquired in the 1980s. However, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL executive director Irungu Newton condemned the use of force in enforcing the demolition order.
Besides the input of different stakeholders, the big question is what happens next for Mukuru residents. Their plea is to the government to have the issues solved immediately to restore normalcy.
Image: Mukuru slum. Photo by Johnny Miller
This story was produced by GHETTO FM partnership with Code for Africa, Kenya Community Media Network and the Catholic Media Council with support from the German Cooperation as a part of the Our County Our Responsibility project.