MWATHANE: Guard public reserves to stop all these inhumane evictions - Daily Nation
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Guard public reserves to stop all these inhumane evictions

Saturday July 21 2018

public reserve

Structures are demolished in Kibera for being erected on a public reserve, on June 21, 2018. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By IBRAHIM MWATHANE
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As I write, the government has given notice to Kibera residents occupying the 600 metre long by 60 metre wide link road reserve between Lang’ata and Ngong Roads to vacate.

This is a public reserve. Unless ongoing interventions between the residents, human rights groups, the land commission and Kura bear fruit, the residents may be forcefully evicted.

That would pump several homeless children and adults into the already hyper saturated Kibera ecosystem, with the attendant socio-economic consequences.

We have also witnessed recent evictions from road reserves in parts of Nairobi, with the usual chatter and destruction.

EVICTIONS

We witnessed residents evicted from the JKIA flight path a while back.

Mombasa is also currently experiencing all manner of evictions as road construction and expansion within and beyond Mombasa proceeds.

In almost all the cases, the main offenders are citizens in search of space for residential or commercial use, little wonder evictions go hand in hand with high pitch politics.

Politicians will usually want to be seen to be against evictions, hoping to capitalise on the voting power of the affected some day.

And they are also known to assume pretentious allocation powers for land they do not own or have power to allocate.

It is easy to appreciate that most evictions occur on forest, road and airport reserves or unallocated public land in urban areas.

POLITICIANS

The irony is that all such reserves or land can or will have been at one time defined and pointed out by some surveyor.

Their spatial extents are therefore specific and known.

Where there’s uncertainty or loss of memory, owners can easily bring back surveyors to re-establish.

So the question begs why the entrusted State agencies allow people to suddenly or gradually enter, construct and begin to live or trade thereon.

It certainly looks callous for someone entrusted with the authority to police such reserves to stand watch as temporary, semi-permanent and sometimes permanent structures are erected on such bands of land, only for them to later authorise demolitions and evictions.

CORRUPTION

It is needless affliction of loss and suffering. It paints the State in bad light. It comes out as professional negligence of those concerned.

One of the things that I have come to appreciate over time is that most Kenyans can and do obey authority where applied justifiably and consistently.

I am sure they would not dare breach the limits of public land if this was well pointed out and policed.

Have you, for instance, ever seen citizens try and breach any of the military reserves?

The enforcement officers responsible have the mind and commitment not to cut deals with anyone or even sleep on the job. The disciplinary consequences would be dire.

Challenges arise when those entrusted secretly trade irregular favours with citizens interested in using public reserves, then turn a blind eye.

RESPONSIBILITY

Then politicians have been known to influence enforcement officials to go slow on violators of road reserves.

But they all know it is irregular and wrong. It is raw impunity. Then there are those officers who are outrightly negligent.

They guard critical infrastructure agencies yet don’t bother to take an inventory of their landed assets.

Even after completion of allocation or land acquisition tasks, they never take time to walk, understand and protect the pointed out boundaries of the land reserved to them.

This is inexcusable, particularly knowing they live with us and should know that citizens will ultimately encroach, leading to nasty confrontations later.

So the chief executives and enforcement officers in all agencies charged with the custodian of public land at national and county level should be obliged with policing such reserves routinely to avert unnecessary forced evictions at later dates.

RECKLESS

Citizens as well should play their part. Clearly, many move into such reserves deliberately.

Indeed, there are some who openly confess that they move in to make a quick buck while the luck lasts.

But there are the desperate ones who take cue from such cunning ones and end up setting camp on public reserves believing they have some right.

Much as we truly have challenges with residential and business space in urban areas, we cannot have anything constructed anywhere.

So such people are also guilty of pushing their luck with State agencies too far.

No civilised society ever grew out of such wanton disorder where people take up space and construct anything wherever and whenever they want.

While the State should play its part in policing, citizens must, too, understand and respect their limits with such public land.

Mwathane is a land surveyor [email protected]: