Our lives have been turned upside down…
At 73 years, Virginia Wanjiru, a resident of Kariobangi is supposed to be at home playing with her grandchildren or resting. But all that is a pipe dream for the granny after she was evicted from Kariobangi Sewerage Farm seven months ago, a place she had called home for the last 24 years.
Day in day out, Wanjiru and hundreds of others are on the move knocking doors in different government offices and humanitarian organizations seeking justice. Justice to get back their legally owned land which the government now claims was obtained illegally. This justice is not forthcoming.
“Since our houses were demolished, we have been to hell and back. We were forced to sleep outside in cold and rainy weather without shelter. No alternative housing was provided despite the government’s dusk-to-dawn Covid-19 curfew requiring people to stay at home or risk penalties,” she says
We survive on well-wishers. Many people didn’t have time to get their things out of their homes. Everything was destroyed. Most of the evictees spend the night in the cold while others are being housed by their relatives and their friends which is not healthy during this time when corona is spreading like bushfire.
Others rented makeshift houses in Korogocho and Mathare slums. The houses are in deplorable conditions,” she says adding that their vital documents also got lost while some were destroyed during the evictions.
“We have gone through a lot. Most of us are suffering physically and psychologically. Some of us are already suffering from diabetes, ulcers and high blood pressure and cancer,” she says. Wanjiru, who is a retired nurse working for the City Council of Nairobi maintains that they were given the land by City Council of Nairobi in 1996 and they have documents to prove that.
She urges the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) to give them back their land because it is just lying idle and compensate them for the losses they incurred.
Esther Wanjiku Gitau, 68, another victim says her two rental houses were demolished and now she has turned to begging. My eldest son is very sick and I don’t even have money to buy drugs. “Besides, the shack we are living in currently is leaking. Even animal sheds are better,” says the former city council employee tears welling in her eyes. Even these clothes that I am wearing I was given by well-wishers,” she says.
John Aganda, a victim, claimed that their leaders are being threatened by some police officers saying they have been barred from holding meetings to discuss their welfare which is against the law. There is no justice for poor people. Kwani maskini hana haki ya kukutana? (Are poor not allowed to meet?) We have been forgotten. The government does not care about us, it only cares for the rich. From the day our houses were demolished, no leader has ever come here to check on us. Are we not Kenyans? Why has the government forgotten us? We are waiting for justice,” he says.
He says most of the children are not in schools because their parents relocated to other areas and have not secured admission to new schools.
The way the government thinks about us during polls or a time like now when it wants us to pass the Building Bridges Initiative report, it should do so now and help us,” she says.
Kariobangi Sewerage Farm chairman Isaac Abdi maintains the evictees legally own the land because they were given the title deeds by the government. “I want to ask one question: How many governments do we have in this country?” The land set aside for sewerage was 75 acres, we only occupied 15 acres, give us back our land and compensation for the property that was lost!
He says residents have title deeds to their land and have been paying levies to the county government for the land. It was wrong for NCWSC to evict people during the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing their vulnerability to contracting the virus,” said the former truck driver.
He claims they have been barred from holding meetings to discuss their problems saying this is against the law.
Grassroots Women Initiative Network leader Ruth Mumbi, claims that the current government has auctioned the state to the highest bidder and defrauded its citizens of their rights to personal freedom, dignity and property. She says there are still about 500 people from Kariobangi without shelter and rely on food donations to survive.
She notes that as the poor residents were being evicted without alternative accommodation. “The upper class, who had encroached on Ngong forest were given a fair hearing by Parliament which ruled that the Ministry of Environment had not followed the law and recommended dialogue between the two parties,” she says.
Speaking during celebrations to mark the International human rights day last week Wanjira Wanjiru from Kongamano la Mageuzi asked Kenyans to stand firm and join them in demanding full implementation and realization of Article 43 of the Constitution.
She condemned the action by the government saying housing is a human right and should be enjoyed by all. ”The government should compensate all the victims because it has taken residents many years to build and they have gone through torture,” she says.