City Affairs

Nairobi MPs voice concerns over ongoing demolitions in riparian areas

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On May 2, 2024, the Interior Ministry ordered the demolition of structures and buildings illegally constructed along riparian land near Nairobi.

A section of Nairobi MPs have raised concern over the ongoing demolition of structures on riparian land.

Raising the alarm of the human rights implications of the exercise, Starehe MP Amos Mwago described the process as excessively forceful and poorly planned.

"Hon Speaker, in May 2024 the Government directed that all structures put up on riparian land be demolished following the heavy rains that have caused flooding across the country. However, how these demolitions are carried out is deeply concerning and raises questions about the respect for human rights," he said during National Assembly proceedings on Tuesday.

The Jubilee MP also noted that the ongoing demolitions are painting a picture of inhumane treatment with houses being demolished without regard for the well-being of the residents, some of whom have been on the same land for many years.

Mwago lamented that mothers and children were being left to sleep in the cold without any alternative accommodation or support from the government.

He went on to say that demolitions have been marred by excessive use of force.

As a result, the MP requested a statement from the chairpersons of the Departmental Committees on Lands and Internal Security, as well as a list of all properties on riparian land scheduled for demolition and those who will be paid.

He also sought to know what measures the ministry had put in place to ensure a fair and transparent compensation plan was being rolled out.

"It is particularly alarming that the demolitions are taking place without a clear and transparent compensation plan in place the government's purported compensation plan appears to be limited to a few individuals," Mwago added.

Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang also questioned the establishment of the Nairobi Rivers Commission, which is at the centre of the President's demolitions and restoration of riparian land through a gazette Notice.

Kajwang criticised the Commission's approach to property demolition, pointing out that the demolition affected only residents of Nairobi's less wealthy Eastlands district.

A boy looks at the search and rescue operations on the rubble of a residential flat built on riparian land, that collapsed while undergoing demolition near the Mathare River, in Mathare, Nairobi, on May 14, 2024. (Photo: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

Dagoretti North MP Beatrice Elachi echoed Kajwang's sentiments taking notice of the alleged discrimination being used to undertake the demolition and compensation processes.

"The two Committee Chairpersons should furnish before this house a list of all the property on riparian land that is to be demolished as well as a list of all those who are to be compensated," she added.

On his part, Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje also lamented the distressing impact that the demolition was causing to society.

"The situation as it is Honourable Speaker is quite dire because the government is creating Internally Displaced Persons instead of protecting and creating housing for society," he said.

The MP urged the government to clarify its regulations on the distance from rivers that might be designated riparian land, as different distances are being enforced in different places.

On May 2, 2024, the Interior Ministry ordered the demolition of structures and buildings illegally constructed along riparian land near Nairobi.

The directive affected all those living within 30 metres of Ngong, Mathare and Nairobi rivers.

The CS directed the Nairobi Regional and County Security Teams to work with the Nairobi City County Government and the National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) to ensure immediate vacation of people living along the rivers.

However, the move sparked a backlash, with human rights advocates led by the Kenya Human Rights Commission criticising the government for demolishing homes on riparian lands amid flooding.

Activists and members of a Nairobi professionals and residents group participate in a demonstration against illegal and unplanned development, following the government's order to demolish buildings set on riparian land to allow for free flow of rivers, in Nairobi on May 16, 2024. (Photo: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters)

The rights groups claimed the demolitions were done before the government's deadline elapsed and without sufficient notice or proper consultation.

To date, demolitions are still being carried out in areas within Mathare, Kamukunji and Starehe sub-counties in Nairobi.

On May 27, 2024, Interior CS announced that at least 25,000 households affected by the vacation orders from the Nairobi Rivers riparian corridor had received the Sh10,000 support from the government.

Kindiki said 40,000 households were affected by the orders and were set to receive the support fund.

Other households were to receive the funds by May 31, 2024.

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