Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Evictions in Mukuru

• A settlement covering an area larger than Kibera, enumeration probably not so dissimilar
• Hugging Kenya Rail and Ngong River make it both vulnerable to evictions and flooding
• Area is called “Pipeline” – for there is an oil line connecting Nairobi and Kisumu
• Mukuru, made up of 13 villages, is c.o.v.e.r.e.d. i.n. t.r.a.s.h.       Mukuru 002 Mukuru 009

                         Main road in Sinai Village, Ngong River dividing Sinai and Kwa Reuben Village.

Eviction Recount 1: Just before Christmas 15/12/2009, at 2am, evictions began with the bulldozering of the informal primary school for deaf students (marginalization of a societal group). Bulldozer and 100+ police evicted without notice; the reason: new pipeline. Shelters hug the tracks kilometers on end, evictions began at the very end/start of the village, and halted when villagers revolted and cut off the fingers of the driver of the bulldozer…

Ngong River separates Sinai Village with Kwa Reuben Village. The two are characteristically different, while Sinai is rusty and disorganized, hugging the railroad, Kwa Reuben shows evidence of parallel roofing; plotting. Although there is a row of Railway Hawkers, the settlement starts from a safe 30m from the tracks. The 20+m between hawkers and settlement provide a public space where a hawker has laid out all of the (washing) tubs he sells for display. He also sells home-made oil-lamps, constructed from light-bulbs turned upside down.

In Kwa Reuben, rooms cost 1000KSH +20KSH for ‘protection’, if you are a shop-owner. Protection is provided by Masai Warriors.

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                Railway tracks along which the 13 Mukuru villages are situated, a footbridge.

In Mukuru, settlement squatting seems to work like this: there is a local area chief (though he may not necessarily be a traditional landowner – he might just be some guy from the country). He has his Vice-chairman; his right-hand man; his wingman. (He, too, needs not be a traditional owner; he is just some guy; a middleman). To receive a plot or a shelter, one must make an offer to both the Chief and the Vice-Chairman, neither is a representative of the Government; and both will disappear come eviction time, which is exactly what happened in the Gateway Zone.

Eviction Recount 2: At 9am, on 27.07.2007, 300 policeman evicted over 25,000 people at the Gateway Zone. A developer had been in negotiations with the area chiefs; the court granted eviction papers;  only to discover that after the developer mounted a 7+m high wall around the entire perimeter; he had no more right to the land than the squatters… or did he?

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Informal primary school wall-paintings, with squatter kids in front of a biogas sanitation kiosk “Biocenter”, the quarry: now both a bathing and dumpsite, eviction area 3.

Eviction Recount 3: The 3km wide area was privately owned; the owner allowed settlers to lease a plot of land for an initial fee, and a monthly 100KSH rent- to re-enforce the temporary contract. After the owner’s death, the son sold the plot to a developer: Safaricom, who demanded an empty plot. As such, the son hired a gang, who brought in a gas tank, set it alight and forced settlers out of their homes through a violent rampage.

Mukuru is located on industrial land; this is highly evident, it surrounds a quarry. The quarry has filled with water, at the same time as trash is dumped into the quarry, there are those who are washing themselves.

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Discussion with members of Mukuru CBO Alliance and left, David from the Nairobi People’s Settlement Network, “my container.”

To guarentee my return to the neighborhood, the Mukuru CBO Alliance presented me with a gift... Not a goat nor a dance performance, but a shipping container with a large water storage tank as a hat. The container has been unused and remained closed for 5 years… Wild ideas are very welcome!