12 June 2009

Kickin ‘em to the Curb

Amnesty warns against eviction of Kenyan slum-dwellers

Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:56pm GMT

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Human rights group Amnesty International warned Kenya on Friday against evicting some 127,000 slum-dwellers in a planned city cleanup.

The recommendation came in a report drawing attention to appalling conditions for Nairobi's two million slum residents -- nearly half the city's total population.

"Exploited by landlords, threatened by police, extorted by gangs, the slums in Nairobi are a human rights black hole where residents are deprived of basic services, denied security and excluded from having a say on their future," Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan told reporters.

It accused Kenya of planning mass evictions, without resettlement, of 127,000 people in a programme to develop and clean the Nairobi River basin.

The river's filthy waters, going through the centre of the city, are straddled by shacks and sewage.

Lack of security of tenure exposes slum-dwellers around the city to forced evictions, often carried out en masse with catastrophic consequences for individuals and families, said the report, titled 'The Unseen Majority'.

Slum-dwellers are crammed into only 5 per cent of the city's residential area and just 1 per cent of all land in the city, it added.

"The burgeoning slums and the unacceptable living conditions for their residents are visible testament to the Kenyan government's failure to uphold the right to adequate housing for all," it said.

More than 500 protesters took to the streets demanding more government attention to slum development on Thursday, but Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta made no mention of that when reading his $11.1 billion budget on the same day.

Nairobi's Kibera, Mathare and other slums were battlegrounds last year during post-election violence that killed at least 1,300 people in east Africa's biggest economy.

Government officials insist there are plans to upgrade and build new housing in Nairobi's slums, but they were unavailable for immediate comment on the Amnesty report.

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