The Ministry of Lands has released new guidelines that could make it harder to demolish homes put up illegally.
The latest measures by the Land Reform and Transformation Unit (LRTU) seek to prevent a situation where home owners and those occupying land illegally are evicted without being given a chance to prepare.
The new policy were unveiled as the government prepares to renew its demolition of houses from land illegally acquired in Athi River.
The imminent exercise has already seen some of the tenants move out to avoid being left in the cold.
But the document titled ‘Eviction and Resettlement Guidelines’ which the taskforce has been preparing for the past two years borrows heavily from six key international treaties on human rights and the Constitution, giving targeted home owners a say before any demolitions are carried out.
“Documented evidence shows that the forced evictions affect the livelihoods of individuals and households and always have a devastating impact on individuals and households,” say the Guidelines in its overview.
“The government shall ensure that evictions only occur in exceptional circumstances… evictions require full justification given their potential and extremely negative impact on a wide range of internationally recognised human rights.”
The regulations seek to correct weaknesses in some of the Acts on habitation and land use such as the Physical planning Act, Survey Act, Forest Act and Water Act, most of which do not identify the procedure to be followed when evicting people.
The norm has been that for all grabbed public land, the Commissioner of Lands must seek a court order before they are evicted.
“The Commissioner of Lands does not have adequate logistical resources to do this and therefore it is important that a more effective system be put in place,” says the guidelines.
The measures adopt article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which demands that governments ensure rights of citizens to proper standards of living.
LRTU also borrows from the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which demands that countries ensure an environment in which citizens will live comfortably.
Each eviction will now have to allow “genuine consultation with those affected” before anyone is removed from their homes.
In addition, any institution or person seeking evictions will have to give adequate and reasonable notice to the occupants in a language they fully understand.
During evictions, government officials will have to be present and those carrying out the actual flattening should be properly identified.
The guidelines also say that evictions should not be carried out at night, when schools are nearing exam time or in bad weather.