WINNING ESSAY

WINNING ESSAY

With several cases of forced evictions happening in Kenya, Hakijamii held an online essay competition with the topic being ” How should the Government address the issue of forced evictions given housing is one of it’s Big 4 Agendas” to get the views of the youth.

With several well informed essays coming through, Mr. Ngotho Gichuru emerged the winner. Below is the winning essay.

HOW THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF FORCED EVICTIONS GIVEN HOUSING IS ONE OF THE BIG 4 AGENDA.

Forced eviction is “ the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/ or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal and other protection” ( Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, general comment No 7(1997) on the right to adequate housing: forced evictions). In Kenya, the most common causes of forced evictions include but are not limited to the following: tenure insecurity/absence of formal tenure rights, authoritarian top-down planning, development and infrastructure projects, large international events (such as major sporting events, conferences, etc.), urban redevelopment and `beautification` initiatives, property market forces and gentrification, absence of state support for the poor, political conflict, ethnic cleansing and war.

Housing is one of the big four agenda of the national government of Kenya alongside agriculture, health and manufacturing. The costs of forced evictions include: increase in poverty which results to a severe increase in social stress which can lead to large scale societal conflict, deprive people of their homes and lands, simple dignity of a place to live, discrimination and social exclusion. The national government should adopt the following key solutions for avoiding forced evictions: legislation and policy, providing housing to the poor, land sharing and invoking international and regional legal remedies.

Providing housing to the poor. The national government of Kenya should partner with koto housing Kenya in constructing houses for the poor. Koto housing project uses expanded polystyrene panels which are fortified by special formulae of concrete enveloped in between a mesh that helps to strengthen the houses. This will be cheap since there is no need to keep paying contractors on a daily basis. The government can also provide housing to the poor via a range of strategies which include but are not limited to the following: in-situ upgrading, rapid land release programmes, provision of credit, supporting saving schemes, subsidising building costs and subsidising rentals.

Legislation and policy. The Government of Kenya should enact and enforce legislation guaranteeing universal security of tenure and this can help to curtail the practice of forced evictions. Security of tenure can be defined as freedom from fear of forced evictions. This can be best achieved by establishing or declaring certain areas as ` eviction-free zones` which can be effective in granting security of tenure. Effective rent control laws and policies can also ensure that an increasing number of disadvantaged people have access to rental markets and the poor persons are not pushed out of well-located areas due to gentrification.

Land Sharing. In countries such as Philippines and Thailand, this innovative approach has successfully provided a practical alternative to forced evictions. The Government of Kenya should redistribute the land in question into two parts, some to be reserved for the land owners to develop and some to be reserved for housing the people who live on the site.

Invoking international and regional legal remedies. This involves appeals to UN special procedures, treaty monitoring bodies such as UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Human Rights Council Complaint Mechanism, etc.

The right to adequate housing is recognised as a human right in several international human rights instruments. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is the key international human rights instrument that articulates the right to adequate housing. Article 11(1) of the covenant explicitly recognises the right to adequate housing. In 1993 the UN Commission on Human Rights indicated, “Forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights.” In 1998,the UN Sub- Commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights reaffirmed that, “ the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of a broad range of human rights; in particular the right to adequate housing, the right to remain, the right to freedom of movement, the right to privacy, the right to property, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to security of home, the right to security of the person, the right to security of tenure and the right to equality of treatment ( General comment 7: The right to adequate housing ( art.11(i) of the Covenant): Forced Evictions, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1997, paragraph 8., Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/77, 10 March 1993, paragraph 1.)

For the jubilee government to achieve its desired goal of quality housing, it must do away with forced evictions.