Wanted: Legal guidelines on demolition of kiosks

Given the poor state of the economy over the years, it is imperative that the bulk of Kenyan youths seek employment options in the informal sector.

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Given the poor state of the economy over the years, it is imperative that the bulk of Kenyan youths seek employment options in the informal sector.

The informal sector comprises small business enterprises that offer an otherwise promising alternative for business investment on a small scale. In this domain are kiosks which range from small scale groceries, florists and eating places.

Kenyans hoped that Narc would protect and safeguard the interests of small scale traders. But the recent demolition of kiosks in Nairobi was a show of great shame to a popularly elected Government that purports to uphold and respect human rights.

I do not support the erection of unplanned kiosks. And demolition of such establishments is acceptable. However, it should be done in a humane way. As at today, we do not seem to have legislation that governs evictions and demolitions. What we see are quick fix strategies that leave kiosk owners dehumanised as they are left pondering over the next move.

A few questions therefore come to the fore. When and how should unwanted buildings (kiosks and slums included) be demolished? As we enforce urban planning laws, is there any respect for kiosk operators who have a right to live a life devoid of unprecedented intimidation and harassment?

Demolition of kiosks as was carried out is a gross violation of human rights. And as hundreds are rendered jobless after the exercise, the Government did not come clean on the reason behind their demolition.

Truly, the roadside establishments could be hiding dens for thugs. They could also be swallowing up the all important road reserves. Most importantly, these cheap eating places might pose a health hazard going by the low standards of hygiene. To a few others, the kiosks might be an intimidating and rather embarrassing eyesore to otherwise classy and trendy neighbourhoods. Nonetheless, demolition should be a systematic process that hurts neither parties.

Dialogue is the first alternative to this dehumanising exercise. All stakeholders should come together in an open forum to seek sensible alternatives to this problem. Such negotiations must embrace the give and take attitude for them to be genuine. After the recent demolition of kiosks in the city, the aftermath pitted Local Government Minister Karisa Maitha and his Roads and Housing counterpart Raila Odinga.

What followed was shameful firing of salvos from which Kenyans understood that the authority to demolish illegal structures is not centralised and hence it was hard to place blame on any one party. The challenge facing Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi is to come up with clear cut legal machinery to govern any eventualities regarding kiosks.

Immense use of force by city council askaris and police officers is also uncalled for. Roughing up mothers in the name of executing an order from above is tantamount to violating the rights of the very people who pay taxes for the day to day running of the Government.

Kenyans want to see change in the manner of carrying out kiosk demolitions. The Government should also learn that the objective of creating 500,000 jobs a year cannot be achieved in an environment where small scale entrepreneurs are disillusioned.

MUTHUSI KIMWELE,
Nairobi.

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