Leave rail land, squatters told

Sunday March 21 2010

By JOHN NGIRACHU

Kenya Railways Corporation has asked those living on land reserved for it to move out within a month, failure of which they will be forcefully evicted and prosecuted.

It says all land within 100 feet on either side of the railway is reserved for expansion and to ensure safety. “Unauthorised persons who have entered such land are hereby given 30 days notice to voluntarily move out or face forceful eviction and prosecution for trespass,” said managing director Nduva Muli in a notice published in newspapers on Sunday.

The corporation also said it intended to take back land reserved for railway stations, quarries, watering points and level crossings. It also wants those who have modified buildings leased from it to restore them to their original state within 30 days.

KRC has effectively set the stage for possible confrontations with the encroachers, who are mostly slum dwellers in parts of Nairobi, including Kibera.

Among the structures affected are a restaurant and a school off Jogoo Road, which are said to have been built on land set aside for the expansion of the railway. This is in addition to slum dwellers who have encroached on rail land in Kibera, Mukuru Sinai, Makadara and Dandora.

Rift Valley Railways (RVR), which is currently running services in Kenya, last December blamed a derailment at Kibera on “flying toilets” — polythene bags containing human excrement. Slum dwellers relieve themselves in plastic bags, which they hurl away, even on rooftops.

RVR executive chairman Brown Ondego said large amounts of the bags and poor drainage had caused the wheels to slip, resulting in the derailment. Two people were killed when the train’s wagons hit people walking near the line before falling onto shanties built right next to the railway.

Last year, plans to evict some 7,000 squatters living on KRC’s land in Bangladesh slums in Mombasa came to a head after local leaders, among them MP Ramadhan Kajembe and Catholic priest Gabriel Dolan, led protests against the eviction.

Kenya has not extended the railway line beyond where the British left it more than a century ago, leaving land reserved for new lines and expansion of the current one unoccupied and, therefore, attracting squatters.