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Forced evictions are widespread in Kenyan cities and are, on the surface, caused by conflicts in land rights, non–payment of excessive land and house rents, and urban redevelopment. But, more fundamentally, evictions are due to factors embedded in the country’s political economy, in particular, the grossly inequitable land ownership structure which makes it difficult for the poor to access land and decent shelter. Evictions cause significant socioeconomic hardship to individuals, affecting cities and whole nations. To avoid evictions, I argue that Kenya must make its political economy more inclusive, implement land reform, domesticate its municipal planning and related by–laws, and create a proactive slum settlements policy. This paper is based on secondary data, largely drawn from the extensive coverage of urban evictions in recent decades in Kenya’s leading newspapers.
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Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 23(3), 2002, 252-267
Copyright 2002 Department of Geography, National University of Singapore and Blackwell Publishers Ltd
DEFINITION OF FORCED
EVICTION
According to the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR,
1993:np) forced eviction is:
the involuntary removal of persons
from their homes or land, directly or
indirectly attributable to the State. It
entails the effective elimination of the
possibility of an individual or group
living in a particular house, residence
or place, and the assisted (in the case
of resettlement) or unassisted (without
resettlement) movement of evicted
persons or groups to other areas.
Specifically, unlike other forms of displacement,
forced evictions: require direct or indirect state
involvement; involve the use of force; are
normally planned rather than random; and can
be targeted at individuals or groups. Therefore,
evictions due to non-payment of “legitimate”
rent or destruction of rental property are
generally not considered a violation of human
rights such as the right to housing.
This paper begins with a brief literature
review on forced evictions, before moving on
to look at the development and socioeconomic
contributions of informal settlements in Kenya,
and the practice of evictions in Kenya, in terms
of causes, effects, community responses and
possible alternatives. The analysis relies on
secondary data, especially from Kenya’s
leading newspapers that have extensively
FORCED EVICTIONS IN KENYAN CITIES
Kefa M. Otiso
Department of Geography, Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, USA
ABSTRACT
Forced evictions are widespread in Kenyan cities and are, on the surface, caused by conflicts in
land rights, non-payment of excessive land and house rents, and urban redevelopment. But, more
fundamentally, evictions are due to factors embedded in the country’s political economy, in
particular, the grossly inequitable land ownership structure which makes it difficult for the poor to
access land and decent shelter. Evictions cause significant socioeconomic hardship to individuals,
affecting cities and whole nations. To avoid evictions, I argue that Kenya must make its political
economy more inclusive, implement land reform, domesticate its municipal planning and related
by-laws, and create a proactive slum settlements policy. This paper is based on secondary data,
largely drawn from the extensive coverage of urban evictions in recent decades in Kenya’s leading
newspapers.
Keywords: slums, evictions, urban management, land reform, Kenya, Nairobi
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM2
Forced Evictions in Kenyan Cities 253
covered the problem of urban evictions in
recent decades.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Forced evictions are widespread in cities in
developing countries (hereafter LDCs) and
are mainly targeted at poor people in slum
and squatter (informal) settlements.
According to the World Bank and the United
Nations Centre for Human Settlements
(UNCHS) (1999:1),
slums are neglected parts of cities
where housing and living conditions
are appallingly poor. [They] range from
high density, squalid central city
tenements to spontaneous squatter
settlements without legal recognition
or rights, sprawling at the edge of cities.
The principle perpetrators of evictions in
Kenya and many other LDCs are local and
central governments, private developers,
private organisations, public institutions,
individuals, state corporations and,
occasionally, foreign business interests
(Apiyo, 1998). Reasons for eviction include
development and infrastructure projects, land
acquisition or expropriation, housing or land
reclamation schemes, speculation, urban
redevelopment and resettlement programmes,
and to control the proliferation of informal
settlements – although, as elsewhere, slum
clearance in Kenya has led to the creation of
more slums (NCCK, 1991; UNHCHR, 1993;
Everett, 2001).
As in other LDCs, most evictions in Kenya
are violent, unexpected and disruptive,
conducted using overwhelming force, and
timed to minimise resistance from the affected
communities (NCCK, 1991; Everett, 2001:461).
The socioeconomic, cultural and political
consequences of evictions include:
multiplying individual and social
impoverishment,including homeless-
ness and the growth of new slums;
physical, psychological and emotional
trauma; insecurity for the future;
medical hardship and the onset of
disease; substantially higher trans-
portation costs; loss of livelihood and
traditional lands; worsened housing
conditions; physical injury or death
resulting from arbitrary violence; the
removal of children from school; arrest
or imprisonment of those opposing an
eviction; loss of faith by victims in the
legal and political system; reduction of
low-income housing stock; racial
segregation; loss of culturally signifi-
cant sites; the confiscation of personal
goods and property; substantially
higher housing costs; absence of
choice of alternative accommodation;
criminalising self-help housing
options; increased social isolation; and
tension with dwellers already at
resettlement sites (UNHCHR, 1993:np).
Therefore, according to UNHCHR, to mitigate
the negative effects of evictions in cases
where this is inevitable, certain guidelines
should be followed, namely: (1) relocation
should be minimised; (2) a relocation/
resettlement plan that allocates sufficient
resources to ensure that those affected are
fairly compensated and rehabilitated should
be prepared and implemented; evictees
should benefit from the development process
and, at minimum, should be no worse off than
before relocation, (3) evictees should
participate fully in the relocation planning and
management process, and (4) the parties
benefiting from the development causing the
relocation should pay the full costs of the
relocation process, including the socio-
economic rehabilitation of those affected to
at least their former level. Unfortunately,
these guidelines are seldom adhered to, if at
all, in many LDCs including Kenya (Apiyo,
1998).
Elitist governments in many LDCs view
slums as a drain on the economy and as
criminally infested places deserving of
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM3
254 Otiso
destruction, rather than as positive and
integral parts of the urban environment.
Consequently, evictions are widespread
because they also “epitomise the desperation
of local governments, city planners and land
developers to keep cities exclusive” (Lecke,
1998:np). This is certainly true of the situation
in Kenya where, historically, the authorities
have held the least progressive of views on
informal settlements and relied (unsuc-
cessfully) on demolition to control their
proliferation.
Although many LDC governments have
a negative view of slums, the incidence of
evictions that they initiate or tolerate
depends on local socioeconomic conditions
as well as their understanding of the reasons
for the existence of slums and their role in
society. According to Cheema (1987:40-41;
also summarised in Agevi, 1998:127),
government policy on urban slum and
squatter settlements evolves through five
successive stages: (1) slum clearance and
forced migration; (2) housing followed by
slum clearance; (3) the provision of minimum
services for existing slums and squatter
settlements; (4) extension of tenure security
and physical upgrading; and (5) recognition
of the legitimate role of slums and squatter
settlements in urban development.
In Stage 1, governments are suspicious and
downright hostile to informal settlements and
seldom view them as solutions to urban
shelter problems. Instead, governments
often see them as reflecting the failure of
official policy and, therefore, an
embarrassment to be removed (Agevi,
1998:126). As a result, governments use slum
clearance and forced displacement of urban
residents – to less desirable urban land or to
their rural areas of origin – to control informal
settlements. Stage 2 features slum clearance
for redevelopment and the simultaneous
provision of subsidised low-income public
housing “necessitated by the fact that those
removed from slums are either legal owners
of land or have been staying there over a
long period of time” (Cheema, 1987:40-41).
Unfortunately, the inadequate provision of
low-income housing, often due to insufficient
cost recovery and the use of unsustainable
subsidies (Agevi, 1998:127), coupled with its
infiltration by higher socioeconomic groups,
limits its accessibility to displaced persons
and other poor urban groups. In Stage 3,
governments begin to come to terms with the
enduring nature of urban informal settlements
and, conversely, the obvious failure of slum
clearance and forced eviction practices. This,
together with mounting “pressures from the
residents to eliminate hazards to public
health” (Cheema, 1987:41), forces
governments to begin providing essential
basic urban services to existing informal
settlements. Still, non-provision of services
beyond a bare minimum and the moderate use
of slum demolition are used to discourage
the future growth of these habitations. Stage
4 is where governments recognise and begin
to invest in informal settlements and extend
security of tenure to their residents, while
gesturing toward slum upgrading projects.
Such measures are usually intended to
encourage residents to improve the quality
of their housing, using personal or communal
resources. Even though evictions decline
substantially in this stage, informal
habitations are yet to be fully incorporated
into the urban environment. Finally, in Stage
5, governments extend full recognition to
informal settlements and embrace them as
productive and creative solutions to urban
shelter and economic problems. Con-
sequently, governments develop and begin
to implement a strategy designed to integrate
informal settlements and their teeming
populations into the urban development
process. Active government-community
partnerships are also established to facilitate
schemes for basic services and infrastructure
provision, as well as employment generation.
Based on present and past responses to
slums in the country, the Kenyan govern-
ment seems to oscillate between the first and
second stages outlined above. As will be
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM4
shown in subsequent sections, the Kenyan
authorities’ erratic approach to informal
settlements stems from the central role of
land in the country’s agrarian political
economy.
INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS IN
KENYA: FORMATION AND ROLE
Table 1 indicates how pervasive informal
settlements or muorotos1 are in various
cities in Kenya (see Figure 1), including the
capital city of Nairobi where contradictions
between modernity, affluence and abject
poverty are most starkly manifest. Nairobi,
in fact, contains some of the oldest, largest
and most established slums in the country,
for example, Mathare and Kibera (Figure 2).
The formation of slums in Kenyan cities
is due to the combined effects of several
factors that include (1) widespread poverty
due to periodic droughts, politically-
instigated civil disturbances, a widening
income gap between the rich and the poor,
sickness, excessive political interference in
the country’s economy, and a lack of
commitment to the poor (DANIDA, 1997;
Apiyo, 1998); (2) over-urbanisation due to
rapid population growth resulting in a
transfer of rural poverty to the city faster
than the city can accommodate its in-
migrants; (3) shortages of decent low-
income housing; (4) iniquitous patterns of
land ownership; (5) lack of land and absence
of tenure for the urban poor; (6) poor
enforcement of building and zoning laws
leading to the deterioration of formal resi-
dential areas which, in Nairobi, include Buru
Buru, Komorock, Kayole, Shauri Moyo,
Gorofani, Ofafa Maringo, Kaloleni, Bahati,
Mbotela, Makadara, Kariobangi North,
Ofafa Jericho, Jerusalem, Biafra, Old Ngara
and Ziwani (Daily Nation, 2001b); and (7)
use of inappropriate urban planning policies
and standards that limit sufficient supply of
and access to good quality housing (MDC
1993; Republic of Kenya, 2000).
According to de Soto (2000:28), informal
settlements in the Third World play an
important economic, social and political role.
This is true of Kenya where slums form the
base of the informal sector that is a major part
of the country’s economy (Sunday Nation,
2001). Specifically, the informal sector
contributes labour, employment, income,
markets, as well as cheap goods and services
that are indispensable to urban economic
production and household survival in the
country (Pangaya, 1988; Otiso, 2000; Sunday
Nation, 2001). Socially, since a substantial
portion of the country’s urban population is
born and raised in informal habitations, they
make an important contribution to the nation’s
social reproduction. Politically, the burgeoning
populations in these informal agglomerations
form a potentially large political constituency,
especially when mobilised. In fact, slum and
squatter residents played an important role in
Kenya’s independence struggle although,
regrettably, the political muscle of these
residents has largely been abused in the post-
independence period (NCCK, 1991:9).
Moreover, these depressed settlements
play a critical role in alleviating Kenya’s
shortage of low-income urban housing. For
instance, as early as the 1970s, informal
settlements such as Mathare and Kibera
housed 40 per cent of Nairobi’s population
(Amis, 1988:238). Both because and in spite
of Nairobi’s precipitous economic decline since
the mid-1970s, the proportion of the city’s
population in such squalid settlements rose
from 40 per cent in 1979 to 56 per cent in 1993,
and finally to 70 per cent in 2000 (Table 1)
(MDC, 1993, Daily Nation, 2001b).
FORCED EVICTIONS IN KENYA
From the first forced eviction in Kenya – the
razing of an Indian bazaar in embryonic Nairobi
in 1904 by the colonial government on the
grounds that it posed a health hazard – until
the late 1970s, the demolition of informal
settlements for health and other reasons was
at the core of official colonial and postcolonial
Forced Evictions in Kenyan Cities 255
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM5
Figure 1. Location of major urban areas in Kenya.
256 Otiso
URBAN CENTRE
POPULATION
SIZE
POPULATION IN
SLUMS (%)
Nairobi
1,324,570
57-75
Mombasa 461,753 80
Kisumu 192,733 70
Nakuru 163,927 80
Machakos 116,293 50
Meru 94,947 60
Nyeri 91,258 60
Kericho 48,511 80
Kisii 44,149 70
Embu 26,525 70
Nanyuki 26,070 80
Voi 13,202 80
TA BL E 1 . SL U M PO P U LAT I O N I N S E LE C TE D M AJ O R CI T I ES I N KE N YA , 1 9 9 5
Source: Agevi (1998:125).
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM6
government policy for these habitations
(Agevi, 1998:137). From the late 1970s through
the 1980s, the futility and unpopularity of this
policy forced the government into tolerating
shanty settlements, resulting in fewer
demolitions (MDC, 1993). But, since the 1990s,
the number of demolitions has been on the
rise due to reasons explored below.
Causes of forced evictions in Kenya
Government (local and central) and private
developers are responsible for most of the
forced evictions in Kenyan cities. On the
surface, evictions usually appear to be caused
by the enforcement of municipal planning and
building by-laws and other government orders,
conflict over land rights, political struggles,
non-payment of unjust land and house rents,
state security, and urban development or
redevelopment (Apiyo, 1998). But below the
surface, evictions in Kenya are more
fundamentally caused by factors embedded
in the country’s political economy. Most
notable is the country’s landownership
structure that precludes many poor people’s
access to land and decent shelter. This factor
underpins the following discussion of three
primary causes of eviction in Kenya: (1)
conflicts over land rights – by far the most
important cause of evictions; (2) non-payment
of excessive land and house rents; and (3)
urban development or redevelopment.
Conflicts over land rights. Kenya’s
economy is largely agrarian and, as such, land
has a high social, cultural and economic
value; it is an important sign of wealth as
well as a source of livelihood and political
power (Apiyo, 1998; Kanyinga, 1998).
Unfortunately, the distribution of land
ownership across the country is grossly
iniquitous, most evident in cities such as
Nairobi where 55 per cent of the population
is crowded into only four per cent of the total
residential land area (Daily Nation, 2000).
Because most people lack an alternative
means of earning a livelihood, the competition
for land is intense, and especially so in urban
areas. In wider perspective, the country is
locked in a land crisis attributable to:
Figure 2. Distribution of slum areas in Nairobi City.
Forced Evictions in Kenyan Cities 257
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM7
the combined effects of unsustainable
demographic patterns, objective limits
to available [arable] land resources,
limited application of scientific
knowledge in facilitating sustainable
land use, increasing social injustice
through uncurbed appetite for land,
and a blend of incompetence and
corruption on the part of government
officials (Daily Nation, 2000).
Kenya’s land crisis, as well as the
importance of land in the country’s political
economy, trace back to developments that
were initiated in the colonial period. In order
to facilitate commodity capitalism through the
exploitation of cheap local labour, the colonial
authorities alienated fertile agricultural land
from the natives and consigned them to
reserves on marginal lands; supplanted
indigenous communal land tenure with private
land ownership (together with attendant title
deeds and private property rights); and
imposed various taxes on the natives payable
in currency so as to force them to seek waged
labour on European estates (Kanyinga, 1998:3;
Otiso, 2000:45-48). As a result of these actions,
massive displacement of indigenous peoples
such as the Kikuyu occurred in the alienated
areas, creating the country’s first squatters.
Initially, many displaced people moved to
the native reserves, but life there quickly
became unbearable due to population growth.
This triggered a subsequent migration,
especially that of the Kikuyu to areas formerly
occupied by ethnic groups such as the Kalenjin
and Maasai, and, thereby, the inter-ethnic land
conflicts that continue to plague Kenya to this
day (Kanyinga, 1998:3-4). In the 1950s, the
need to recover alienated land from the
Europeans was the spark that ignited the
struggle for independence (Stewart &
O’Sullivan, 1998:10).
Immediately following independence, the
Kenya government effected some land
adjustments featuring tenure reforms in the
reserves and the resettlement of indigenous
people on some alienated lands formerly set
aside for European habitation (Kanyinga,
1998:4). Simultaneously, the government set
out to Africanise or Kenyanise state
institutions (Lado, 1996:35). Unfortunately,
these reforms neither went far enough nor
benefited most of the urban poor or rural
squatters created by colonial policies (NCCK,
1991). Instead, the programmes largely
benefited the African petite bourgeoisie that
had formed and prospered under colonialism.
This same group inherited the state apparatus
at independence and preserved the economic
production relations and landownership
patterns initiated by colonial capitalism, both
for their own benefit as well as that of the former
colonialists (Rowley, 2000:138). Moreover,
because independence merely “Africanized the
colonial class structure” (Lado, 1996:35)
without substantially altering the form and
function of the economy, or state, political or
legal structures (Kanyinga, 1998:5; Rowley,
2000:139), it perpetuated and exacerbated –
instead of redressing – colonial injustices such
as displacement, inequable land distribution
and eviction. Stated differently and bluntly,
when “the [colonial-minded] rulers of the newly
independent [state found] themselves faced
with the same problems… as the colonial
officials, [they] reacted identically” (Hall,
1988:191).
These new rulers remain disinclined to
change the country’s political economy
because it allows them to acquire (often
dishonestly) unrestricted amounts of land,
wealth and political power through “political
patronage [which has] evolved as the single-
most medium of regulating access to land”
(Kanyinga, 1998:5). Since the early 1990s, the
dishonest acquisition of public lands, or “land
grabbing” as the practice is known locally, has
increased significantly with the denial of
international aid to Kenya as a result of the
failure to stem corruption and successfully
implement World Bank-IMF-sponsored
structural adjustment programmes to
resuscitate the country’s economy. The
drought of aid money during the 1990s that
258 Otiso
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM8
substantially reduced the amount of public
funds available for pilferage by political
functionaries required them to seek other
means of accumulating private wealth or
maintaining political power. Because of their
high value and the ease with which they can be
disposed of, urban public lands have come to
be a handy means for this purpose (Otiso, 2000).
The dishonest system of land allocation,
together with the poorly regulated urban land
market, has disadvantaged poor people,
invariably forcing most of them to “obtain land
informally, often through illegal occupancy”
(UNCHS, 2001:36). Illegal land occupation not
only discourages poor people’s investment in
better quality housing, it also makes them
vulnerable to eviction, even from public lands
that they have occupied for decades (Apiyo,
1998). Although one might expect that poor
urban dwellers would, on humanitarian
grounds, be given special consideration when
public plots are reallocated, this is frequently
not the case. And the legal system is of little
use to such people because the law recognises
only the rights of title-holders – even when
the land is allocated irregularly (Apiyo, 1998;
Mwangi, 2000; Sunday Nation, 2001).
Unscrupulous government officials and other
individuals have taken great advantage of this
loophole to acquire public lands that are
deemed to be vacant despite their occupation
by several generations of poor dwellers as the
following excerpt (Sunday Nation, 2000)
demonstrates:
More than a thousand people were
yesterday thrown out into the cold by
the Mombasa Municipal Council after
it demolished their houses in Tudor. In
an early morning raid, a squad of
council workers, backed by armed riot
and administration police, flattened 300
dwellings built on a disputed plot. The
workers had also brought along hired
youths armed with rungus [clubs] and
pangas [machetes]. They ordered the
villagers out, before a bulldozer
demolished the mud-walled houses in
a three-hour operation. The eviction
caught the residents by surprise, as
many believed their houses were safe
until a case reportedly in court is
heard and determined [emphasis
added].
More recently, Tudor and other slum areas
of the city of Mombasa (Figure 1) have suffered
more evictions designed to: clean up the urban
area following its elevation to city status in
January 2002 (East African Standard, 2002a);
rid the coastal city of up-country slum dwellers
in order to make room for locals and increase
the support base for local pro-government
politicians; and clear land for redevelopment
by private developers (Daily Nation, 2002).
Demolitions for similar purposes have recently
occurred in the city of Nairobi in diverse slums,
like those in the posh residential
neighbourhoods of Gigiri, Kileleshwa and
Westlands in the Langata and Parklands
divisions of the city (Figure 2), formed by poor
people seeking economic opportunity in
wealthy areas (NCCK, 1991; East African
Standard, 2001a).
The injustices inherent in Kenya’s
landownership structure are mirrored in and
exacerbated by the country’s wide income
disparities. For instance, in 1994, the top 20
per cent of Kenya’s population accounted for
61 per cent of urban and 51 per cent of rural
incomes respectively, while the bottom 20 per
cent accounted for only 5.4 per cent of urban
and 3.5 per cent of rural incomes respectively
(UN, 1998:16). The increasing formation of
informal settlements in Kenya’s cities clearly
indicates a worsening state of poverty
throughout the country, which means that
most Kenyans are unable to obtain decent
shelter. Although the skewed land distribution
and high levels of poverty that exist in Kenya
should have resulted in sociopolitical turmoil,
this frightening prospect has been averted
because, over time,
sharper vertical inequalities (i.e.,
between economic classes within
Forced Evictions in Kenyan Cities 259
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM9
ethnic groups) [have] tended to offset
the political effect of horizontal (i.e.,
regional or ethnic) inequalities. The
vertical inequalities [have] created
divisions within regional and ethnic
groups, since the richer elements [are]
gaining from the system and [have]
much to lose from violence of any
significant magnitude. In addition,
over time the horizontal inequalities
[have] showed some diminution
(Stewart & O’Sullivan, 1998:16).
Because of the importance of land in Kenya,
it is widely used by the government as an
instrument to maintain political power. Political
supporters are frequently rewarded with land
while opponents of the government are
deprived of it or evicted. This strategy has
been accentuated with the introduction of
multi-party politics in 1991. Since then the
government has unleashed waves of evictions
in slum areas in cities such as Nairobi and
Mombasa, as well as in rural areas with large
settler populations that are perceived to be
sympathetic to opposition politicians
(Kanyinga, 1998; Daily Nation, 2002). These
evictions not only engender a sense of
insecurity among the political opposition, but
also help the government to score political
points as the electorate is persuaded to
associate the opposition’s resistance with
violence. Ironically, a relative peace under a
politically oppressive status quo becomes
preferred to the unfulfilled socioeconomic
benefits of a more open political process.
Unsurprisingly, many of the evictions resulting
from government efforts to maintain political
power are often carried out in the guise of
protecting state security, controlling crime and
enforcing municipal by-laws (NCCK, 1991).
Examples of slums demolished in Nairobi for
“security” reasons in the last decade are
Muoroto and Mwariro (NCCK, 1991). As the
following excerpt (Daily Nation, 2001b)
shows, the country’s elitist press often
facilitates an acceptance of evictions by
erroneously or deliberately associating
antisocial behaviour with slum areas:
The uncontrolled growth of shanties
in a city [Nairobi] seriously afflicted by
crime and lack of essential services
portend a grave danger for the country.
It is time the uncontrolled growth of
slums was halted.
Similarly, evictions due to violations of
various municipal by-laws are suspect because
many of these, like the underlying framework
of urban administrative structures being
relics of the colonial era and set to Western
expectations are irrelevant to prevailing
socioeconomic conditions (Bubba & Lamba,
1991; Kironde, 1992). Although “the need,
purpose and advantage of reformulating [these
by-laws] have been repeated ad nauseam
(Agevi & Ngari, 1990:32), policy makers are
hardly moved because formulations that are
appropriate to local conditions are perceived
to be too old-fashioned or backward and
incongruent with their quest to “modernise”
the country. More importantly, continued
enforcement of these colonial regulations “the
law” which is touted as “for everybody’s good”
(Daily Nation, 2001a) serve to perpetuate
the socioeconomic status quo that sustains
the country’s political and economic elite. In
short, slum demolitions due to the failure to
comply with inapplicable municipal regulations
is almost always a red herring that masks the
true objectives of most urban evictions in
Kenya, that is, the need to make land available
for use by the economic and political elite.
Non-payment of excessive house or land
rents. Unscrupulous landlords in Kenyan
cities often evict poor tenants to make room
for tenants who can afford to pay more. Such
evictions violate poor people’s human rights
because they are motivated by greed rather
than the failure to pay legitimate rent
(UNHCHR, 1993). Typically, these evictions
are preceded by unreasonable rent increases
and short notices within which payment must
be made: tenants who are unable to comply,
or those that try to resist such arbitrary rent
increases, get evicted. While the unfortunate
evictees often incur a substantial element of
260 Otiso
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM10
violence and/or loss of property, the landlords
responsible are seldom prosecuted for such
acts of lawlessness (Agevi, 1998).
Disputes over land rent, especially where
ownership is unclear, can also lead to eviction:
More than 2,000 people are facing
eviction in Kisauni, Mombasa, after
refusing to pay land rent to “absentee”
landlords. Already 23 of the 400
permanent houses built on rental land
are being auctioned, with the house
owners yet to leave…The houses,
which are situated in Maweni plot No.
633/1/MN, will be sold to recover
ground rent arrears. The owners of the
houses have, however, vowed not to
vacate them and demanded an audience
with the plot owner (East African
Standard, 2001b).
Although the tenants in the above excerpt have
done better than most in building their own
houses (at substantial cost by local standards),
their future is uncertain in the absence of secure
tenure. Mere occupancy rights often expose
tenants to more exploitation, as the land rates
can easily exceed the cost of buying the land
outright within a relatively short period of time.
Moreover, landowners can demand very high
land rates to precipitate foreclosure and
repossession of the developed plots for resale
at much higher prices.
Urban development or redevelopment.
Demolition to make room for urban redevelop-
ment or “urban renewal” (Agevi, 1998; Apiyo,
1998) usually occurs in slums initially built on
peripheral or marginal land when a given town
or city was smaller in population or physical
size. Subsequent city growth has engulfed
such lands resulting in a substantial appre-
ciation of their value. As in many other parts
of the world, most urban redevelopments in
Kenya tend to take the path of least resistance,
often encroaching into areas occupied by
disenfranchised segments of society or
unorganised slum dwellers.
In recent decades, especially since the early
1990s, sections of slums, like Nairobi’s Mathare
Valley which occupies land close to the city
centre, have been demolished and redeveloped
as permanent high-rise buildings (Otiso, 2000).
Although slum residents have tried to resist
being displaced, they have largely failed
because of poor organisation, an unsym-
pathetic legal system and the use of strong-
arm tactics such as arson or violence by
landowners (Pangaya, 1988:11).
Effects of eviction
The socioeconomic and political con-
sequences of evictions in Kenya are akin to
those witnessed in other places (Everett, 2001).
Evictions lead to loss of life, family break-ups,
loss of social networks, homelessness and a
resort to crime due to loss of livelihoods
(NCCK, 1991). Moreover, they dispropor-
tionately victimise women and children,
generally being executed at odd hours (e.g.
when the men have gone to work), without
notice and with overwhelming force (Sunday
Nation, 2000).
Politically, evictions fuel public animosity
toward government, thereby undermining
political stability and security. In Nairobi, for
instance, the perception that the government
endorses slum demolitions has cost the ruling
party, the Kenya African National Union
(KANU), considerable political goodwill. As a
result, KANU has consistently fared poorly in
elections in the city, conspicuously in urban
constituencies with substantial slum
populations, which it can ill-afford in the current
era of multiparty politics (Throup & Hornsby,
1998:611-12).
Economically, slum evictions lead to a loss
of livelihood, employment and property.
According to one NCCK (1991:21) survey,
demolitions in Nairobi in the late 1980s led to
the loss of 1,431 businesses, 4,293 jobs, and
jeopardised the lives of 34,000 people. Given
the significant economic contributions of
informal settlements and the informal sector
to Kenya’s economy (Sunday Nation, 2001),
Forced Evictions in Kenyan Cities 261
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM11
demolitions represent a cancer in the country’s
economic development (NCCK, 1991:10).
Moreover, they reduce the availability of low-
income housing, which is already seriously in
short supply in many urban areas nationwide.
In short, slum demolition nearly always fails
and, in fact, poses a greater danger to Kenya’s
political and social tranquility than that
associated with the proliferation of the slums.
Community responses to eviction
As in other parts of the world, slum residents
in Kenya resist forceful eviction using a
number of community and legal strategies
(Apiyo, 1998). For instance, in the rare cases
where slum dwellers are privy to plans for their
impending eviction, they have sought legal
protection and, occasionally, succeeded in
delaying this, thereby buying time to seek
alter-native residential space (Sunday Nation,
2001). More often than not, attempts to seek
legal remedies boomerang, causing evictors
to act sooner, often by demolishing slums
while cases are pending in court, to pre-empt
legal action (Sunday Nation, 2000; East
African Standard, 2001a). Not only do such
violations of legal process rarely result in
contempt of court charges, but even when the
legal proceedings are allowed to run their
course, the title-holder usually wins because
in Kenyan law, people who occupy land
without proper titles have no locus standi
or right to be heard in court (Apiyo, 1998).
At times, slum residents have attempted to
purchase the land they occupy from private
agencies or get government to allocate it to them
if it is publicly owned. This strategy has worked
best in areas such as Mathare in Nairobi where
impoverished squatters since independence
have formed land cooperatives for the
purpose of securing land through purchase or
allocation (Pangaya, 1988). Unfortunately, the
recent waves of land grabbing have severely
reduced the amount of public land available for
allocation to poor urban residents (Apiyo, 1998).
Another promising response to demolitions
in Kenya has come from non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) (Otiso, 2000). Realising
that poor urban dwellers are frequently
victimised owing to their illiteracy and poverty,
and their lack of organisation, legal knowledge
and civic education, a number of NGOs are
mobilising, training and empowering the poor
to resist unjust government and landlord action
(Apiyo, 1998; Mwangi, 2000). An example of
this type of mobilisation is Muungano wa
Wana vi ji ji M as ki ni (Federation of the Urban
Poor), formed in 1996 and comprising 86 urban
poor communities scattered throughout Nairobi
and its satellite community of Athi River.
Ultimately, the Federation hopes to incorporate
other poor communities in the country and
become a national association of the urban
poor. Its mission is to (1) advocate and defend
the rights of the urban poor; (2) bring an end to
forced evictions and illegal allocation of land;
(3) ensure that preference is given to the urban
poor for permanent settlement instead of rich
speculators; and (4) ensure that evictees are
given alternative sites and sufficient time and
notice to resettle peacefully and with dignity
when necessary evictions are carried out
(Muungano wa Wanavijiji Maskini, 2001).
Since its formation, the Federation has
conducted land-related awareness campaigns,
demonstrations and night vigils, and submitted
protest letters and memoranda to government
to forestall evictions (Apiyo, 1998).
Another NGO, Kituo Cha Sheria (Le gal Aid
Centre) offers legal representation and advice
to the poor when they are threatened with
eviction. The Habitat Task Force, which is a
network of NGOs working in the fields of human
rights and shelter under the auspices of Kenya’s
National Council of NGOs, also organised
Operation Firimbi (literally, “Operation Blow
the Whistle”) at the height of forced eviction
and irregular land allocation in Nairobi in 1996.
The task force has been publicising irregular
land allocations and providing material,
financial, medical and moral support to those
who are evicted (Apiyo, 1998). Other NGOs
advocate for poor people’s needs to
government and also act as intermediaries,
thereby increasing government sensitivity to
262 Otiso
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM12
poor people’s needs. In some cases, these
efforts have helped the urban destitute to gain
secure tenure or protected occupancy of
public lands, for example, the Mathare 4A area
in Nairobi, where the Catholic Church
succeeded in convincing the government to
allocate land for a church-run slumupgrading
project (Otiso, 2000).
Overall, these community responses to
eviction have so far met with promising but
limited results. However, there is a probability
of greater success in the future as poor
residents become increasingly organised and
cognisant of their rights and potential political
power. It is noteworthy that recent demolitions
have drawn the attention and condemnation
of opposition politicians eager to capitalise
on these unpopular measures (East African
Standard, 2001a).
Alternatives to eviction
Obviously, the main solution to evictions in
Kenya lies in reform of the country’s political
economy to better respond to the needs of
the poor so as to eradicate the underlying
causes of evictions in the country, especially
iniquitous land distribution, the use of land as
a political weapon and a corrupt land allocation
system that works against poor urban
residents. Without such fundamental reform,
any measure aimed at reducing evictions is
bound to be ineffectual or ineffective.
Thankfully, pressure for change is already
materialising from the ranks of civil society
activists and opposition politicians. For the
most part, the government and those sections
of the elite that are benefiting from the status
quo are fiercely resisting calls for reform, which
in some cases has taken the form of political
violence intended to silence the opposition
and other forces clamouring for change.
Although the government has recently
appointed a commission headed by a one-time
Attorney General and wealthy landowner to
look into the country’s land situation (Daily
Nation, 2000), this is unlikely to come up with
recommendations that will significantly impact
the status quo. Even if it did, the present
government has a long record of sitting on
the findings of numerous other commissions
on lesser issues.
However, once the country’s political
economy is reformed, a series of measures
should be taken to improve poor people’s
access to land and decent housing. First is
the need to create a proactive land policy that
would enable the country to rationalise the
use of its land resources (Daily Nation, 2000).
This calls for a second land reform that should
aim to (1) spread the benefits of land ownership
more widely by limiting the amount of land an
individual can own; (2) use taxation and other
measures to compel the country’s largest
landowners to maximise the use of their lands
rather than hold them for prestige and other
symbolic purposes; (3) merge and streamline
the various laws and tenure systems govern-
ing land in the country (East African
Standard, 2002b); (4) outline ways of utilising
the country’s large tracts of semi-arid land to
relieve pressure on the country’s limited arable
land – now only about 17 per cent of the total
(Ojany & Ogendo, 1973:130); and (5)
streamline the country’s land market and land
allocation process. Collectively, these
measures should help lower the cost of land
and make it more affordable and accessible
for poor people (Mwangi, 2000), and also
reduce rural landlessness, poverty and rural-
urban migration, which all contribute to
excessive urban growth and consequent slum
formation and eviction.
Second is the need to develop a proactive
informal settlements policy that aims to (1)
improve low-income groups’ access to
productive resources, especially land; (2)
enable the socioeconomic development of the
poor, in particular women, for example, through
increased access to education and training
opportunities to improve livelihoods and,
thus, decent housing propects; (3) improve
slum residents’ access to affordable housing,
infrastructural services and a healthy living
environment; and (4) enable the sustainable
use of these environments (Agevi, 1998:128).
Forced Evictions in Kenyan Cities 263
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM13
Since informal settlements are likely to continue
being an integral part of the country’s urban
areas in the foreseeable future, they should
be integrated into an overall urban manage-
ment strategy that includes upgrading the
existing ones as well as pre-empting the
formation of others by developing well-
targeted site and service schemes.
Third, there must be a search for innovative
ways of extending land tenure to the genuine
urban poor. Innovative programmes such as
community land trusts (CLTs), temporal
occupation licenses (TOLs) and land cooperat-
ives or companies are some promising vehicles
for this (Yahya, 2001). CLTs work by offering
landownership to a group from which members
can obtain leases, thereby controlling irregular
land transfers, discouraging speculation, creating
conditions that encourage land development,
reducing the cost of land acquisition by
minimising survey costs and government taxes,
as well as creating legal titles which can be used
to secure credit. Neverthess, CLTs are unpopular
because they are misunderstood and are more
complex to implement than other land ownership
schemes such as land cooperatives. Moreover,
communal ownership can be a disincentive to
individual development initiatives or realising a
profit by selling the land. TOLs allow government
to allocate strategically located public land for
business purposes without giving up ownership.
Since TOLs are renewable annually, the land can
always be repossessed if needed for other public
uses. Land under TOLs is often used to put up
food and business kiosks and other types of
informal economic activities. Land cooperatives
or companies essentially enable poor people to
pool their resources and purchase large farms
on the fringes of major cities such as Nairobi.
Once the farm unit is paid for, or sufficient equity
in it is acquired, it is subdivided and allocated
for individual housing construction.
Traditionally, this has been the most popular
vehicle for poor people to acquire land in Kenya.
Fourth, current municipal by-laws and
institutions should be revised to reflect
Kenya’s current socioeconomic conditions.
Whereas, the Government of Kenya did revise
urban low-income housing standards in 1995
(Agevi, 1998), the new standards are unlikely
to benefit low-income households if the rest
of the exclusive colonial planning apparatus
and the inequable land ownership situation
remain unchanged.
Fifth, besides the question of access to land,
the Kenyan authorities must address other
related causes of slum proliferation, such as
the country’s wide income gap, rapid urban
population growth and related urban poverty
due to high rates of natural increase, rural-
urban migration exceeding the growth rate of
job creation (“over-urbanization”) and
national economic decline (Otiso, 2000).
Reduction of poverty calls for more concerted
national economic management, including
paying sufficient attention to rural economies
as a way to slow rural-urban migration, rapid
urban growth and slum proliferation.
Simultaneously, there must be an
implementation of measures designed to
ensure that urban areas function properly.
Since urban areas are the engines of economic
growth, failure to provide them with basic
services makes them unproductive and a drain
on, rather than a stimulus to the national
economy. Overall, proper management of the
economy would increase not only the
economic welfare of Kenyans in general but
also help poor urban residents, especially, to
afford urban land and decent housing.
CONCLUSION
Evictions have been widespread in Kenya for
a long time. Overtly, they are the result of
conflicts over land rights, non-payment of
excessive land or house rents, and urban
redevelopment. But, fundamentally, evictions
are due to the country’s inequable land
ownership structure and other factors
imbedded in the country’s agrarian political
economy. This was engendered when the
British, intent on launching colonial capitalism
in the country, created the first squatters by
alienating African land and introducing
264 Otiso
Otiso.p65 10/9/2002, 9:54 AM14
English property law, together with title and
private property rights, in the early twentieth
century. The outcomes of the ensuing land
shortages and other injustices eventually
culminated in the African independence
movements in the 1950s and Kenya’s
independence in 1963.
However, the attainment of independence
did not substantially alter the inequities of the
colonial socioeconomic or land distribution
structure; rather, it merely “Africanised” them.
Together with subsequent rapid population
growth, economic decline, rising poverty,
dishonest land allocation practices and a non-
inclusive political system, this set the stage
for the urban poor’s increasing inability to
afford land or decent shelter. Consequently,
they have been forced to resort to illegal land
occupation, thereby setting themselves up for
eviction.
As in other parts of the world, evictions in
Kenya have tremendous social, political and
economic consequences, including loss of
lives, livelihoods, property, social networks,
housing and political stability. Unfortunately,
eviction is an ineffective and failed strategy
against the proliferation of slums because it
does not address the underlying causes of
these settlements, namely, skewed land
distribution, poverty, excessive urbanisation,
rapid population growth, limited access to
urban land, especially among the poor, and a
shortage of low-income housing. As a result,
most slums reappear as soon as they are
demolished.
Because the primary causes of evictions
in Kenya are embedded in the country’s
political economy, evictions cannot be
meaningfully addressed without first
reforming the system. And, although some
agitation for reform is materialising, the
necessary reforms are still a while away
because the government and other societal
elements favoured by the current status quo
are deeply entrenched. Moreover, the
country’s pro-reform voices (e.g. the poor,
opposition politicians and civil society
organisations) are too fragmented to offer
any significant challenge to the system.
Consequently, the practice of urban eviction
in Kenya is likely to continue into the
foreseeable future.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The author wishes to thank Joseph Spinelli,
Kris Olds and two anonymous reviewers for
their insightful comments on earlier drafts of
this paper.
ENDNOTES
1 As informal settlements have become popularly
known, after Muoroto, the slum village demolished
by the Nairobi City Council in the early 1990s
(NCCK, 1991; Daily Nation, 2002).
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The urban population of India is expected to reach 416 million by 2050. As more and more people shift from rural to urban areas, the urban centers will be facing serious sustainability challenges to meet the requirements of ever increasing population. One of the key problem areas will be the shortages of the affordable housings for the urban poor and the growth of slums. However, these slums are important component of urban ecosystem as they not only provide affordable shelters to the urban poor but also supply the urban area with its cheap labour force, therefore slums and slum dwellers should be treated as an integral part of urban ecosystem and should be included in the policy frameworks to make urban areas more inclusive and sustainable. This paper examines the sustainability of urban development through livelihood indicators of the slum dwellers of Darjeeling town. This empirical study was carried out in 8 different slum pockets of the town. The data was collected through questionnaires and were subsequently analyzed. The results shows that the slum pockets of Darjeeling town have higher literacy rates (including female literacy rate) as compared to both the national and the state averages, yet its performance in other livelihood indicators is very dismal. The attainment of the lower educational levels by slum dwellers indicates prevalence of very high dropout rates within the community. The slum dwellers face serious levels of deprivation as related to wellbeing indicator and environmental hygiene indicator in regard to access of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities respectively. The slum dwellers of Darjeeling town are forced to live in overcrowded substandard housing conditions with almost no municipal services and are situated on steep slopes which are often prone to the natural disasters. The mixed performance of the slum pockets in regard to the livelihood indicators suggests that the town of Darjeeling has been experiencing unbalanced growth in terms of sustainable development. Therefore a more holistic approach in policy framing is needed to address such multi-faceted problems.
... Other than housing purposes, most slum evictions are aimed at improving slum infrastructures, urban resettlement programs, and land expropriation for public use (e.g. roads, railways, schools), urban redevelopment and for speculation purposes usually initiated by private developers (Otiso, 2002). Due to international pressure and the rise of civil rights groups in 1980s, the government has shifted away from forceful evictions and demolitions which were harmful to lives, properties and sources of livelihood, the new methods have since been adopted including the need to improve the conditions in slums through multi-lateral findings (Syagga, 2011). ...
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Purpose The paper reflects the impacts of the "Arab Spring" that broke out in Tunisia and Syria and led to the loss of more than 300,000 people. A wave of migration began in 2011, especially from Syria to its neighbouring countries including Turkey and Lebanon. Syrian migratory flows have caused social, economic, and ecological problems in the hosting countries. Turkey is one of the countries most affected by the wave of migration from Syria. Syrian refugees were unequally distributed or dispersed not only in leading metropolitan areas of western Turkey but also in many neighbouring cities in the southeast. The distribution of Syrian refugees in Turkish cities revealed considerable spatial heterogeneity and differences. Design/Methodology/Approach The sample size of the study is 953 and the margin of error of this sample size is ± 3.17 at a 95% confidence level. Stratified simple random sampling was used. Interviews were Findings Fatih in İstanbul is one of the districts where Syrian immigrants most often settle. As part of the research on social risk mapping for Fatih District, immigrants - especially Syrian immigrants - have been identified as the main cause of problems by residents (the locals), with this group experiencing higher layoffs in terms of economic opportunities. Our analysis found that the main reason why Syrian immigrants are cited as a problem is "economic motivation". The rate at which Syrians are declared a problem in the districts of Fatih district is directly proportional to the distribution of the Syrian immigrant population. Research Limitations/Implications Time restriction, unfavourable weather conditions, missing information for socio economic status calculation, reluctance of women to join the survey. Originality/Value This study is the first research which examined spatially, how forced migration has an impact on local residents. Its results that can be useful for social measures towards urban planning and management to reduce the negative effects caused from forced migration population.
... Other than housing purposes, most slum evictions are aimed at improving slum infrastructures, urban resettlement programs, and land expropriation for public use (e.g. roads, railways, schools), urban redevelopment and for speculation purposes usually initiated by private developers (Otiso, 2002). Due to international pressure and the rise of civil rights groups in 1980s, the government has shifted away from forceful evictions and demolitions which were harmful to lives, properties and sources of livelihood, the new methods have since been adopted including the need to improve the conditions in slums through multi-lateral findings (Syagga, 2011). ...
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Thesis
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