Kibera residents to wait longer for better housing

Thursday August 20 2009

A section of Kibera slums and the new houses on the background. The High Court has temporarily stopped the slum upgrading programme until it hears argument from the residents and the government. Photo/CHRIS OJOW

A section of Kibera slums and the new houses on the background. The High Court has temporarily stopped the slum upgrading programme until it hears argument from the residents and the government. Photo/CHRIS OJOW 

By SAM KIPLAGAT

There will be no demolition of structures at Kibera’s Soweto slum to pave way for better housing, albeit temporarily.

In a ruling made on Thursday, the High Court said that a group of plot owners have raised issues dealing with fundamental rights.

Lady Justice Abida Ali-Aroni further said that on the other hand, the government was also advancing its course of bettering the lives of residents by upgrading the slum.

And to give all the parties their day in court, the demolition process should be put on hold. She directed lawyer Kibe Mungai to serve the Attorney General, the Minister for Lands and the Commissioner of Lands with the court papers by Friday afternoon. She stopped the demolition exercise for one week to allow all parties to argue their case.

The 84 individuals from Soweto East moved to court stating that they were not opposed to the movement of tenants from the structures in the area but are against demolition of their semi-permanent structures before they are issued with leases to the plots.

They argued that they have acquired legitimate interest in the area and which cannot be taken away by the government against the law.

The project, which has so far cost the Ministry of Housing Sh500 million, is done by the government in conjunction with the UN-Habitat under the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme. The government plans to remove all shanties in 10 years.

To pave way for the upgrading, the government has completed 600 units in Lang’ata and plans to move more than 1,800 people to the new houses Friday in a move that has been welcomed by many including the tenants.

But the structures owners argue that the government has reduced the whole issue into a tenants’ problem and pushed aside their interests.

Mr Mungai told the court that under section 75 of the Constitution, they have property rights and interests and which should be protected.

Through a notice dated August 14, the government gave the residents one month to vacate the structures from Soweto East in an area classified as Zone A.

The notice gave them up to September 15 to vacate the area.