Louis Rezac

Louis Rezac (Hakijamii - the Economics and Social Rights Centre): Louis received a B.S. in Geology from the University of South Dakota. After graduating, he worked for the Peace Corps as an agricultural extension agent in Mali, Africa. In Mali, Louis worked with a women’s association on small business projects, and secured a grant for a men’s association to sell locally-grown garden seeds. After returning from the Peace Corps, Louis worked for a geological testing company, Geotesting Express.

The Ladder That Runs Down

23 Jun

Ngazi Ya Chini (The Ladder That Runs Down) is an organization that represents and fights for the rights of the people living along the railway (railway dwellers) in Kibera and Mukuru people’s settlements (slums) in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 2004, Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) sent out a notice of eviction to railway dwellers in Kibera and Mukuru people’s settlements. The communities reacted, bringing their objections to the evictions to court. The World Bank, upon hearing about the case, suspended funding to the KRC.  In order for KRC to continue to receive funds they would need to follow the World Bank’s guidelines for resettling Project Affected Persons (PAPs).  This action put a stop to evictions without relocation or compensation.

Interview with Samson Ochieng Ooko chairmen of Ngazi Ya Chini.  Click on this photo to see a video on Ngazi Ya Chini's efforts on Christy Gillmore's blog.

To follow the guidelines KRC hired Pamoja Trust to act as human rights consultants.  Pamoja Trust was responsible for creating a Relocation Action Plan (RAP), a report that seeks to ensure proper resettlement guidelines are enforced during the railroad expansion process. The consultants began by using community groups to count the number of residential houses, businesses, and institutions that would be affected by the project.  They then spoke with the communities to determine what the railway dwellers considered fair compensation for their relocation.  Using this information, Pamoja Trust developed the 2005 RAP.

After examining the RAP railway dwellers realized that parts of it did not reflect what they had told Pamoja Trust, spurring them to form Ngazi Ya Chini.  With the help of Odindo Opiata (Then of Kituo Cha Sheria and now Director of Hakijamii), they wrote a counter proposal that was sent to the World Bank, highlighting problematic areas.

Homes and Businesses Along the Railway

Along with the counter proposal, other events caused delays in the RAP’s implementation.  In 2006, the railway operation formerly run by KRC was contracted out to Rift Valley Railways (RVR), a private company.  Then in 2007 the post election violence, centered mainly in the slums, uprooted parts of the railway. Most notable was a train derailment that caused 10 fatalities beyond the 5.2 meter safety zone initially proposed in the 2005 RAP.

In 2010, RVR contracted Pamoja Trust to produce another RAP.  This time a 30 meter safety zone was proposed on both sides of the track.  They told members of Ngazi Ya Chini that the reason for the larger safety zone was to improve operational speed, provide area to expand from one to three railway lines, and to protect railway dwellers from another derailment.  According to the new enumerations done by Pamoja Trust, there are 5071 homes, 3836 businesses, and 262 institutions (including churches, medical clinics, and 49 informal schools) within this 60 meter zone.

Pamoja Trust submitted a draft of the new RAP on May 15, 2010.  In it they propose that, in Kibera, parameter walls be built 23 to 25 meters from the center line of the track.  With the remaining 5 to 7 meters (of the 30 meter total) they plan to create a paved 3 meter wide footpath that runs parallel to the perimeter walls and a 3-story building to house the displaced residents of Kibera and their businesses. Schools, churches, and clinics will not be relocated. The RAP gives the following options for students attending schools that will be demolished:

“Some of the public schools may be able to accommodate additional pupils within some of the classes… within the public schools additional [classrooms] can be constructed to accommodate more pupils…However, both solutions will call for additional teaching staff…and that may take some time to actualize.”

Students of an informal school within the proposed saftey zone

In Mukuru, part of the railway reserve is shared by Kenya Pipeline Company and Kenya Power and Lighting Company so it is not possible to build a three-story structure next to the perimeter walls as is proposed in Kibera.  Instead, the RAP suggests purchasing land somewhere in Nairobi and providing the necessary infrastructure (water, storm drains, and roads) so that the displaced people can build their own housing units.  The security of tenure granted to the displaced would be 45 years.

On the 16th through the 18th of June, 2010, Ngazi Ya Chini held meetings with the PAPs of Kibera and Mukuru.  They analyzed the new RAP and discussed problematic areas, such as mistakes in the enumerations and too little area for resettlement. The residents of Kibera agreed that it was impossible to fit all of the people, businesses, and a 3-meter wide path into the 5 to 7 meter wide areas the proposal allotted for.  Mukuru residents were concerned that there was not a specific relocation site written in the RAP and that they would only be given 45 years of tenure over this unknown site.  One member stated, “Why would I build a house if it’s only secure for 45 years?”

Member of Ngazi Ya Chini noting mistakes in the enumerations

With help from Hakijamii, Ngazi Ya Chini will submit a counter proposal using input from these community meetings to ensure that the concerns of the PAPs will be heard.

After submitting the counter proposal Ngazi Ya Chini can only hope that the World Bank, RVR, and Pamoja Trust will modify the RAP to address the needs of those people most directly affected.

Posted By Louis Rezac

Posted Jun 23rd, 2010


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