Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Demolitions across Nairobi

Over the past two months, thousands of homes and apartment buildings have been demolished in a campaign to make Nairobi more secure as well as to finght against grabbing of public land. Fake title deeds are rampant and unscrupulous government agents in the Lands Ministry have colluded with the City Council and local business leaders to defraud thousands of unsuspecting home buyers. The government has now demolished several slums as well as large estates including hundreds of homes in the multi-million dollar Syokimau Estate near the national airport. One of our friends recently awoke to find his apartment building surrounded by bulldozers and police. Along with other residents, he was given a few minues to grab whatever he could and vacate the building before it was razed to the ground. Opportunistic thieves take advantage of the confusion of demolition to make off with as many household goods as they can. Corruption, insecure land tenancy, and crime are three of the biggest challenges facing Nairobi. By putting money in the right pockets, private developers have snatched hundreds of acres of public land or stolen space from local owners by fencing plots overnight and hiring gangs to chase away the previous owners. Now it is hard to know what land is legitimate and what has been stolen. In the slums the challenges are even more acute, as the very existence of each slum is tenuous. Construction and development are largely informal and unregulated and based on payment of bribes to local leaders. Residents can be expelled at a moments notice and therefore lack any incentive for making improvements in their living environment.

A few years ago, one of the largest supermarkets in Eastern Africa was demolished during the night because it had been illegally built on a road reserve. . .Our apartment complex in South B is located opposite the Railway Training College and a large plot of government land that had been set aside for Railway employee housing. Over the past three years, the public land has been slowly snatched. It has been amazing to watch the fence posts move as dozens of private apartment buildings have been constructed on government land. Most of these buildings are now fully occupied with unsuspecting home buyers or tenants paying absentee landlords. There is speculation that some of these buildings in South B could be targeted next for demolition.

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