A life saving Re-Settlement

“Every time I heard a boom, even if it was the sound of a cracker, I sat up at night and could not sleep anymore. I feared it was a stove blast”, says Sarah Musau a mother of three (3) children aged 19, 13 and 9 years respectively. For 15 years, Sarah and her family lived beside Kenya railway tracks that passes through Kibera informal settlement. During this period, three fire incidents gutted down her home leaving her and her children with nothing except the clothes they were in at the time.

“This has all changed, I can now enjoy my night sleep”, she adds with a grin. Sarah was speaking to a delegation from the International Committee of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) hosted by the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP), Pamoja Trust and Railways Relocation Management Unit (ReMU) on a tour of the Railway Relocation Project Soweto East segment. Sweden has actively supported the social integration of the poor within this project.

Sarah is one of the 200 beneficiaries of phase one (Soweto East segment) of the railway Relocation Action Plan (RAP) implementation. RAP is a partnership between the Kenya Government through the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and the World Bank to resettle squatters occupying the railway reserve on a section of the railway that runs through Kibera and Mukuru informal settlements in Nairobi County.

The formulation of the RAP saw Kenya Railway Corporation cede 10 meters on each side of tracks in the two informal settlements for the resettlement of the squatters. When RAP is fully implemented, 7, 429 squatters referred to as Projected Affected Persons (PAPs)1 will have been resettled. An additional 1, 507 Absentee Structure Owners (ASO) have since been compensated.

According to Dr. Steve Akoth Ouma, the Executive Director of Pamoja Trust, this resettlement is unique in three counts. First, the status of the people being resettled has changed from being referred to as encroachers to Project Affected Persons (PAPs), a milestone in the realization of their right to the city. Second, in addition to the psychosomatic healing described by Sarah, the people who previously lived on railway corridor have now been integrated into the water, sewer, and electricity infrastructure. This integration is very crucial for their social inclusion. And third, the resettlement did not impoverish those who have been resettled as the RAP considered both the occupational (adequate housing) and productivity (livelihood means) with business stalls being provided for PAPs who were using their structures for small scale businesses.

Stephen Kariuki, the Chair Soweto East segment tells of a significant shift in the sense of community he has witnessed in their new residence. First, they have organized themselves into a cooperative movement, the Railway Cooperative Movement. Through this cooperative movement, each house owner pays Kshs. 500 per month to cater for security, common lighting, garbage collection and the cleaning of the estate. This has tremendously improved their quality of life and made them a standing example and an envy of the non-beneficiaries of the project.

Mr. Ilmar Reepalu, the President of the SALAR delegation lauded the project in terms of community involvement, providing access to basic services, cultivating self-governance of the people, and changing their culture. He however noted that there is room for improvement such as need to ensure that there are adequate public spaces and that settlements are connected to the rest of the city in order to realize vibrant cities citing the example of Medellin, in Columbia. The need to always work closely with government as the primary duty bearer was also underscored by the delegations Technical Advisor.

The visit concluded with an appeal to the delegation to serve as ambassadors for continued urban support from Sweden to Kenya, especially citing the fact that Kenya was experiencing an unprecedented growth in urbanization spurred by the devolved government system.

1PAPs are drawn from 9 segments (Kibera Kianda, Kibera Gatwekira, Kisumu Ndogo, Mashimoni, Laini saba, Soweto/Highrise, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Mukuru Sinai, and Mukuru Kwa Reuben)

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