Slum Evictions Move Ahead in Nairobi

Contested land ownership remains an open question for residents of Nairobi's Kiberia slum.


Slum dwellers in Nairobi, Kenya, have lost a bid to stop the government from evicting them.

The Kenyan High Court recently threw out a lawsuit filed by residents of the Kibera slum in the nation's capital. The plaintiffs were hoping to stop a series of road construction and development projects by arguing that they infringe on their constitutional land ownership rights.

The problem is this - despite generations of residence, the slum dwellers don't actually have any proof of land ownership. The government ordered many residents to leave the land in 2004, but most have remained. The slum's population has been estimated at nearly 2 million, though an official census suggests the population is less than 200,000.

The court ruled that stopping the projects would not be in the public interest, according to this article from The Star in Kenya. It also upheld the government's right to use the land as it pleases, noting that the residents, including a large subset of ethnic Nubians, have shown no proof of land title or deeds. Unless something dramatic happens, the government's upgrading plans are likely to roll out in Kibera soon.

However, the ruling judge also recognized that the Nubians' historical claim to the land is potentially legitimate, and that should it be proven – somehow – the upgrading plan could be stopped or the residents be entitled to compensation for their land.

Though securing official title to these ancestral lands will be a challenge, the slum dwellers will continue their fight, taking the question of land ownership to the courts again on June 27.

Photo credit: Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.