Sunday, June 14, 2009

Amnesty: 2 million people live in Nairobi slums

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - More than half the population of Kenya's capital _ some 2 million people _ live in slums or informal settlements under threat of forced eviction and without access to such basic services as water or education, Amnesty International said Friday.

«This is a human rights scandal and an affront to their human dignity,» said Irene Khan, Secretary-General of the human rights group, who visited the Kenyan capital this week to launch a 44-page report, «The Unseen Majority: Nairobi's 2 million Slum-Dwellers.

The Kenyan government has failed to come up with policies that could provide residents with viable long-term alternatives, like low-cost housing, the report says. Nairobi has what is believed to Africa's largest slum, Kibera, as well as several other informal shantytowns.

«We have 2 million people exploited by landlords, threatened by police, extorted by gangs. We have a human rights black hole, where residents are deprived of their basic rights and excluded from having a say about their future,» Khan told reporters during a news conference in Nairobi.

Everline Sande, who lives in Nairobi's Deep Sea slum, said she fears losing her home.
«My demands are simple: good house, proper medical services, clean water and gainful job,» said Sande, who earns US$3 per day for caring the children of single mothers in the slum.

Citing interviews with hundreds of residents of the slums, the Amnesty report said there is a constant threat of losing one's home despite a 2007 High Court order barring forced evictions.

The problem has taken on urgency since the government announced a two-year plan last year to clean up Nairobi rivers that are increasingly choking with uncollected garbage and industrial waste.

To clear the rivers, thousands of homes and businesses that are within 30 yards' (meters') distance would be demolished, affecting up to 127,080 people, most of whom live in slums, the report said.

Amnesty called on the Kenyan government to «ensure genuine consultation with the affected communities to identify all feasible alternatives to evictions, put in place appropriate procedural and legal safeguards, and develop a comprehensive relocation and compensation.

The spokeswomen for the government's National Environment Management Authority said the government will do all it can to relocate people to other areas.

«We've set aside 500 acres (200 hectares) of land for the people who will be affected by the clean-up operation,» said Ruth Musambi. «That is the available land at the moment. We are not evicting people by force. We are relocating them.