CALL FOR A NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON FORCED EVICTIONS DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC
Kituo Cha Sheria (hereinafter referred “KITUO”) is the oldest legal non-governmental organisation in Kenya whose mission is to provide general legal education to the Kenyan people through the delivery of civic education programmes, legal aid, and strategic public interest litigation as well as to monitor the implementation by the State of the constitutional provisions on human and peoples’ rights through regular research and reporting.
We are concerned about the reports on forced evictions and demolitions of homes that have occurred in Kariobangi, Ruai and Kisauni rendering over 5,000 families homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when the Government of Kenya has urged Kenyans to stay at home to curb the spread of COVID-19, it is ironical that forced evictions and demolitions of homes are then sanctioned by the State at a time of minimal court operations.
Further, the evictions have been carried out without due regard and in total violation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the Land Law (Amendment) Act 2016 and the UN Evictions Guidelines. The law provides the following requirements for any kind of eviction:
- be preceded by the proper identification of those taking part in the eviction or demolitions;
- be preceded by the presentation of the formal authorizations for the action;
- where groups of people are involved, government officials or their representatives to be present during an eviction;
- be carried out in a manner that respects the dignity, right to life and security of those affected;
- include special measures to ensure effective protection to groups and people who are vulnerable such as women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities;
- include special measures to ensure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of property or possessions as a result of the eviction;
- include mechanisms to protect property and possessions left behind involuntarily from destruction;
- respect the principles of necessity and proportionality during the use of force; and
- give the affected persons the first priority to demolish and salvage their property.
We are aware that the evictions in Kariobangi, Ruai and Kisauni violated these eviction laws. For instance, the Kariobangi case was actually pending in court in Nrb ELC Petition No. 11 of 2020 Kariobangi Sewerage Self Help Group –vs- Principal Secretary, Water, Sanitation and Irrigation and Others. In fact, the eviction was undertaken in total disregard and in contempt of court orders prohibiting any demolitions on the disputed land. Further, we have received evidence that the evictions were inhumane, with no prior notice and without consultation of the affected families. The evictions have invariably affected special interest groups such as women, children, elderly and persons with disabilities.
KITUO wishes to assert that any democratic state must ensure the rule of law, adhering to national and international legal obligations and compliance with lawful court orders. The Kariobangi, Ruai and Kisauni evictions exemplify a departure from these key tenets and instead deliberate disobedience of the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary.
KITUO hence recommends that to enhance efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the State should take the following steps:
1). Immediate cessation of all forced evictions and demolitions across the country.
2) Provision of humanitarian assistance including food, shelter and or housing to affected families of evictions in Kariobangi, Ruai and Kisauni.
3) Conduct of enumeration exercise to document all affected families for purposes of their resettlement on suitable public land.
4) Prosecution of state officers involved in executing unlawful forced evictions in Kariobangi, Ruai and Kisauni and in the event none happens KITUO shall cite the state officers for contempt.
5) Timely sharing of information on the status of the disputed land to all affected communities.
6) Active public participation of affected communities in compulsory acquisition of land as in compliance with article 40 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
KITUO reaffirms its commitment to promote access to justice for all Kenyans more so the poor and marginalized Kenyan communities.