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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Bypass threat to Nairobi's giant slum
The government points out that the slum is occupied illegally
Residents of one of Africa's most notorious slums, Kibera, on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, are debating a controversial government plan to demolish the slum to make way for a road.

The government has already begun work on the southern by-pass road. By the time it is completed it is estimated that around 350,000 people could have been made homeless as a result.

The government began the demolition work in February, bulldozing the Ryela village area. However, demolition work has now temporarily stopped - although the government has warned it intends to continue with the scheme shortly.

"The plans for the road are ok, but we are worried - anyone you ask will tell you they are worried," one resident told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"I have lived here in Kibera for a long time. I carry out my work here. If I'm removed from here and taken elsewhere, how will I carry out my work?"


One woman said her house had already been destroyed by the bulldozer crews.

"Since the government made the demolitions, we have been sleeping outside," she said.

Children on a street in Kibera
Even if they demolish our houses, we are not worried, because I know that the minister has a good plan for these people
Paul Mpoi, Kibera resident
"I was born right here. I have nowhere to go - I'm like a bird living in the bush.

"How can I live? All we know is God and our President."

She called on the President, Mwai Kibaki, to "have mercy on us, because we are poor".

Authorities have indicated, however, that the houses in Kibera have been built illegally, without permission. Any legal challenge to the bypass would be unlikely to succeed.

Another result of Kibera's illegal status is that the occupiers of the slum have very few services. Water is supplied only through private contractors, who charge double.

There are few proper streets, and no access to sewage. The area is notorious for "flying toilets" - raw sewage placed into plastic bags and then thrown out of windows.

In the rainy season, many residents lose their homes due to flooding - but with nowhere else to go they simply rebuild.

As a result, many are hopeful that once the government has built the bypass they will be rehoused, and their lives will improve immeasurably.

"Even if they demolish our houses, we are not worried, because I know that the minister has a good plan for these people," said Paul Mpoi, another Kibera resident.

"If the government has decided on a place where these people will go, it will be very good. What I know, and what I believe, is that the government is doing its best so that these people will live a good way of life."


Certainly, construction of new houses has been proposed by the government and UN Habitat, and at a news conference Kenya's roads minister confirmed this construction was to occur later this year.

People collecting water in Kibera
Nearly half of Kibera's 800,000 residents could lose their homes
"Although this is a general move to reduce slums in Kenya, I think that the government may consider using these proposed structures to resettle those who have been affected by the by-pass roads in Kibera," confirmed the BBC's Michael Koloki in Nairobi.

He said that others in favour of the scheme included many road users, fed up with Nairobi's notorious traffic jams.

But there are still obstacles to the completion of the plan - one local paper has now reported that an official at one of the main private universities will not surrender part of their land for construction without being compensated.

And there are still a great number of concerned residents who fear they will not be rehoused.

"The government has not been quite ready to come and discuss with us, to enter into dialogue with us," said Dalmas Owino Okendo, secretary general for the Kibera Rent and Housing Forum.

"We are not seeing any concrete evidence that there is room for relocation, even before the demolitions are done. So many people, for example in the Ryela village that was demolished, are still homeless, staying with their relatives and their friends."

Nairobi slum life: Into Kibera
04 Oct 02  |  Africa


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