Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Kenya Demolishes Nairobi Slum for Highway
21 AUG, 2018 - 00:08 

A Kibera resident kneels in the rubble of his church, demolished as part of the road development. - Reuters

NAIROBI. – Early on Sunday morning on the outskirts of Nairobi, hundreds of people gathered amid the rubble where their church once stood.

Pastors preached atop bare foundations. Worshippers, dressed in their Sunday best, sat on shattered bricks and broken concrete. Pamphlets, family photos and school papers littered the ground.

Days before, they had watched as bulldozers tore through their neighbourhood, mowing down churches, schools and businesses, to make way for a highway extension that aims to ease Nairobi’s notoriously bad traffic congestion. The new road will pass through the heart of Kibera, the largest informal settlement in Africa, where many of the homes are built from mud bricks and corrugated metal, and house some of the capital’s poorest people.

Two thousand families were forcibly evicted in the demolitions. There has been no offer of compensation or plans made for resettlement.

“Is this a free country? Why are they chasing away their citizens without telling them where they should go?” asks Elijah Musembi, a metalworker who has lived here since the 1980s. “Of what use am I to this country?”

“Progress is good. We are not refusing that,” adds Jackson Muindo, 25, who lost his home in the demolition and now sleeps outside. “But this is not progress. This is being taken advantage of.”

In recent years, Kenya’s economy has grown rapidly. Since 2000, GDP has increased five-fold to $75bn in 2017. But in that same period the number of people in severe poverty increased by 10%, leaving many Kenyans to feel they have been left out of the boom. And the road project is a particular sticking point, given that more than half of Kenyans still walk to where to they need to go.

“It will not benefit us, we don’t have cars. It will benefit the rich men,” Bryan Matisa, 28, says as he stares out over the wreckage of the school where he once worked. The demolitions came just days before end-of-term exams, leaving hundreds of children in the lurch. “The road is not more important than the children. They should have let the children finish school.”

– The Guardian

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