Kenya: Pres. Kibaki asked to stop forced eviction of tens of thousands from railway reserve land

Human rights organizations including COHRE, Amnesty International and the national civil society organizations Shelter Forum and Hakijamii Trust have written to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki urging him to stop forced evictions along the Kenya Railway across the country, as over 50,000 people face eviction from land along the railway reserve.

On 21 March 2010, the state-owned Kenya Railways published a notice in daily newspapers giving those living on railway reserve land nationwide 30 days to pull down their structures and leave, "or face forceful eviction and prosecution". The land in question is 100 feet on either side of the railway.

Many of those affected are slum dwellers in Nairobi. After several years of living on the railway reserve, many built up homes and livelihoods on these lands and if forcefully evicted are likely to lose their property, shelter and incomes. This will have a devastating impact on their access to other services like water, sanitation, food, education, and health.

Writing to President Kibaki, the organizations said that thirty days is clearly inadequate for alternatives and resettlement options to be explored.

Pesidents have not been consulted about the evictions and the government has not offered alternative housing or other resettlement options.

The organizations warned that based on previous practice, such large-scale forced evictions could lead to other human rights violations, including the use of excessive force and destruction of family livelihoods. They said that the demolitions would be "socially and economically disastrous".

The letter reminds the Kenyan Government that under international human rights law, evictions may be carried out only as a last resort, once all other feasible alternatives to eviction have been explored in genuine consultation with the affected communities.

Governments are also under an obligation to ensure that no one is rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights as a consequence of eviction. Adequate alternative housing and compensation for all losses must be made available to those affected prior to eviction, regardless of whether they rent, own, occupy or lease the land or housing in question.

COHRE and the other organizations asked the Kenyan government to ensure that guidelines on evictions that conform to international human rights standards are adopted as a matter of priority.

They also reminded the government of their obligation, under international human rights law, to ensure genuine consultation with affected communities on all aspects of the Kenya Railway project and to adhere to an agreed, comprehensive relocation plan.