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.

Working to Stop Evictions in Kibarani Settlement, Mombasa, Kenya

12 Aug

Kibarani People’s Settlement (slum, informal settlement) is located in Mombasa along the railway to Uganda.  The residents of Kibarani live in mud brick houses with no running water or electricity.   Life is difficult, but residents like the inexpensive location with a beautiful view of the ocean, fertile soil to plant small gardens, and a bus stop nearby so they can easily travel to wherever they need to go.

View of Kibarani with the container depot in the background.  Owners of the depot want to expand into Kibarani.  To do this the homes seen above will be demolished and the people residing there will need to relocate.

Kibarani was once the main garbage dump for Mombasa attracting many poor families to come settle and earn a living collecting and recycling trash (plastic, cardboard, metal).  Around 8 years ago the city landfill was relocated to Mwakirunge and parts of Kibarani’s dump were cleaned up making unusable land usable again.  With this newly available land business men saw an opportunity to invest putting up truck yards and container depots.  The poor families that moved to and built homes in Kibarani are now being threatened with eviction by these private developers.

Recently, a truck transport company located next to Kibarani has talked with the local government about buying a plot of land, within Kibarani, to expand their container depot.  To do this they must evict the residents that currently reside there.  The company hired a firm to get the residents of the plot to agree to move for a small sum of money.  The company wrote an agreement to pay residents to leave and got 100 people to sign it.  On the 14th of July, 2010 there was a notice that the plot had been sold and anyone residing there needed to vacate the land within 14 days.

The local CBO (community based organization) Village Development Committee went to Haki Yetu (a partner of Hakijamii in Mombasa) to ask for help to stop the evictions.  Haki Yetu helped them to identify and make a list of everyone that lived within the plot.  After completing the list they found that only 45 of the 100 people that signed the agreement were actually living in the plot. With this and other information Haki Yetu and the Village Development committee has brought the case to court.

Dan Okongo of the Village Development Committee speaks to us about the pending evictions.

Though there has not been a final decision made on the case residents of Kibarani say that people still come (sometimes at night) to try and evict them.  Dan Okongo, a business man that has lived on the plot for 20 years, told us that most people living in the settlement are opposed to any relocation.  “We don’t want to move.  We have houses, businesses, a school, and a church on this plot of land.”

This isn’t the only case of evictions happening in Mombasa or even in Kibarani.  In 2006, Kenya Railways evicted residents of  Kibarani.  They were never given a reason for the eviction and the land has stood idle ever since.  After the eviction, the residents set up camp at the government office that gave the go ahead to evict; refusing to leave until  they were given a place to relocate. Eventually, they were allowed to rebuild on a riparian zone prone to flooding.

The riparian zone where the people evicted by Kenya Railways rebuilt their homes.

In Owinohuru Settlement descendants of former occupants of the land have come back, decades after their family had lived there, claiming they still own the land. They want to sell the land to private developers.  (See Advocacy Project Fellow Christy Gillmore’s Blog to learn more)

If the communities don’t take action on their own they will continue to be exploited.  Groups like Haki Yetu work to empower the people being directly affected so that they can claim their rights.  With assistance from groups like Haki Yetu residents of these communities are learning how to stop private developers from taking the land they have called home for years.

Posted By Louis Rezac

Posted Aug 12th, 2010

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