Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
An upgrading effort in Kenya's slum leaves thousands homeless
Thousands of residents in a section of Kenya’s largest slum were forcefully evicted form their homes last week, when government bulldozers tore down their community to make way for a slum upgrading program.
According to this report from Kenya’s The Star newspaper, residents in the Soweto section of Kibera, a 2 million person slum in Nairobi, were given just five days notice that demolitions would occur. Few had other options for housing so they remained as bulldozers leveled the area. “Where do they expect us to go to? I am homeless with even no spoon yet I am a family man with four kids and a wife. All my property has been stolen during the exercise,” displaced resident David Livuku told The Star.
He said all the residents have been paying their monthly rent as any other person who stays in a rental house. “We have been all paying our rent according to the sizes of the houses we can afford and most of us earn a living from the small businesses we operate around the area,” he added. He said most of the residents affected were recently evicted from Mitumba, Kyang'ombe and Sinai slums after the fire tragedy.
This video from Kibera News Network shows the demolition and the residents as they try to salvage their belongings from the wreckage. It’s estimated that 5,000 people lost their homes.
The demolitions are part of a slum upgrading program expected to bring high rise housing to the area. The conditions in Kibera and other Kenyan slums are certainly in need of some sort of upgrading. UN-HABITAT notes that Nairobi "has some of the most dense, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world," and that "60 percent of the population lives in slums that occupy only 5 percent of the total land." UN-HABITAT has partnered with the government and the World Bank Cities Alliance to develop slum upgrading programs in Nairobi to bring water, sewage facilities and better housing to these areas.
The government’s demolition of housing may be part of this sort of effort to bring better living conditions to what are undoubtedly destitute living conditions, but for these residents, the meantime until this new life can be built may be much harder than the life that was just taken away.
Photo credit: Thomas Mukoya / Reuters