HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AMIDST THE PANDEMIC

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“The world is structured to give hurdles, and only those who jump make it to the very end.” These words clearly welcome you to Kibos area; a home and a place where the Nubian community live, and their lives took an inadvertent turn after they were forcefully evicted early in the year. In white tents, shuffling through life, the residents go about their new normal as internally displaced persons in this area, which they have now been forced to settle in after a brutal uprooting from a pace they have called home for over thirty years. A somber mood and a cloud of uncertainty covers Kibos. A place that once had religious centers, schools, booming businesses and was coupled up with houses was brought down on the 5th of February at exactly 10.00 PM. What the residents could manage to salvage was their children and a few important documents that would cross their minds at that particular time.

Three months down the line, the residents continue to camp in makeshift tents and their livelihoods permanently devastated. And as the saying goes, “when it rains it really pours”, this can clearly be depicted around Kibos as the community tries to cover themselves in these tents. Being a rainy season, the helpless and hopeless community has to find ways to seek an alternative mode of accommodation as the heavy downpour finds its way into the tents. The community remains exposed to the elements of climate and array of security risks to the elderly, women, children and persons with disabilities.

Without regard to the pandemic prevention measures, the right to adequate Housing was violated during curfew hours . Since the first case of Covid-19 was announced and the dusk to dawn curfew enforced, over 20,000 Kenyans have forcefully been evicted without a clear project for relocation and compensation plan.

In June 2020, HakijamiiEsrc visited Kariobangi South where residents were forcefully evicted in the wee hours of the night. Without prior notice accorded to them and travel restrictions, evictees like Prisca were caught up in a fix. A mother of three while her new born was a week old was seeking refuge at a friend’s place after she lost everything during the evictions. A clear field which she showed us from a distance and pointing to where her house was once erected could only bring her pain and anguish well written on her face.  The inhumane manner in which the evictions were carried out, without allowing the community time to at least relocate, led to the loss and damage to personal and business property with no clear compensation possibility.

“In these hard times, where will you get a job? The landlord needs money, where will you get it? You buy water, you still have to buy a mask. And still, I have to fend for my family” Said Ms. Prisca. [i]https://www.hakijamii.com/?p=6235  the communities have been left devastated and the harm is irreparable.

According to Article 43 Section (b), of the constitution, every Kenyan has a right to accessible and adequate housing, and to the highest standards of health and sanitation. This Section has however been violated in different parts of the country, as the evictions and demolitions destroy infrastructural installations that support access to education, health and sanitation.

These evictions prove to be outrageous under any circumstances. Access to adequate housing is critical to protect people from the Covid-19 infection, prevent its spread and allow those infected to recover. More to the point, forced evictions cause severe trauma, reduce a community’s standard of living, and worsen the economic situation of vulnerable and marginalized groups. At their core, they violate basic human rights, chiefly the right to adequate housing, irrespective of the type of “ownership” residents have. The removals also interfere with other rights such as to food, water, health, property, security of the home, and freedom from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.

According to the Human Rights Watch, adhering to these laws is a matter of common sense, common decency, and fundamental human rights. The Kenyan government needs to immediately suspend such evictions – whether by the government, corporations, or individuals – during the pandemic. Once the current crisis ends, it must ensure that Kenyan law is upheld and guarantee that support is provided for people evicted so they can meet their basic needs in the short- and long-term.

Co-authored by the Communications Specialist and the Land, Housing and Litigation Manager at Hakijamii: media@hakijamii.com and/ pkariuki@hakijamii.com

[i] https://www.hakijamii.com/?p=6235

ii]https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/10/nairobi-evicts-8000-people-amidst-pandemic-and-curfew

https://unhabitat.org/sites/default/files/download-manager-files/Handbook%20Assessing%20the%20Impact%20of%20Eviction%20%2828Aug2014%29Final.pdf

https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Housing/Guidelines_en.pdf

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