Tuesday, 29 July 2003

Nairobi (Fides Service) – “In Nairobi there are 130 slum communities that are home to over 2 million people. The residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements constitute 55% of the city’s total population and yet they are crowded into only 1.5% of the total land in the city. This makes Nairobi a city more densely population by slums than Calcutta and Bombay, cities traditionally considered the worst slum cities in the world”. These are the sad figures contained in a memorandum produced by a Network of Pastoral Workers in Parishes in the informal settlements (slums) as a move to do something to change the situation. According to the memorandum, a copy of which was sent to the Catholic Archbishop of Nairobi Mgr Raphael Ndingi Mwana ‘A Nzeki, many of the informal settlements such as Kibera, Korogocho, Kiambiu and Mukuru are located on government or City Council land and they have therefore been declared ‘illegal’. As a result the residents live in constant fear that they can be evicted. Moreover these people are denied all basic infrastructure service including adequate housing, running water, toilets, sanitation systems, electricity, roads, street ,lights and refuse pick up.”
The report warns that “There can be no peace and development in Nairobi where hundreds of thousands of people live in these deplorable conditions and suffer daily from fear and insecurity”. There is also tension over land ownership and tenure. “Most of the landowners do not live in the slums and they only come to pick up the collections. Between 80% and 90% of the people are tenants and they are the poorest. There is also tension because of different ethnic and religious origin.
According to the report the news that the government will undertake a slum-upgrading project with the support of the UN Habitat in the village of Soweto, Kibera was welcomed by the residents but it also raised serious concern because it will mean demolishing a substantial number of structures to make way for the building of houses, roads and infrastructures. The report says the projects must follow certain guidelines: “first of all they must provide for a resettlement plan mechanism to prevent outsiders from participating in the compensation, legal and administrative procedures, and the right of the intended beneficiaries to participate at every level of the project design and implementation”.
Lastly the Pastoral Workers list “recommendations for a way forward”: the informal settlements must be recognised as official; the government must guarantee basic services, roads, sanitation systems, running water, electricity, as well as space for markets and recreation grounds for youth. LM (Fides Service 29/7/2003 EM lines 37 Words: 430)