Bulldozers flatten Kenya’s biggest slum

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Onlookers watch as bulldozers demolish houses to make way for a new road in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s largest slum was woken on Monday by the sounds of cranes and bulldozers that demolished hundreds of shanties overnight to make way for a road, leaving desperate residents homeless.

Kibera lies on the outskirts of Nairobi and is one of Africa’s largest slums, home to more than 400,000 people, but parts of it are being demolished for a new road to ease congestion in the capital.

Construction started in 2016 and there have been earlier demolitions, but residents said the latest move had taken them by surprise as authorities had promised compensation and advance notice of any forced evictions.

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Rights groups have accused the government of going back on an agreement to delay construction pending an agreement.

Amnesty International said the demolitions went against an agreement between Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA), a government agency, and rights groups to halt forced evictions until a resettlement plan had been agreed.

“Demolition prior to the completion of (the) Resettlement Action Plan betrays the public trust and violates our laws,” said Houghton Irungu, executive director for Kenya.

KURA declined to comment directly on the claim, saying it was working with rights groups and local leaders on a plan to resettle people affected by the project.

In March 23016 residents of the slum filed two legal challenges to the planned demolition of their homes.But a judge ruled last year that the road was in the public interest and threw out the challenges.

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Rights groups say the demolitions, which are expected to affect 30,000 residents of Kibera, highlight the difficulties faced by mostly poor people living in informal settlements as African cities expand rapidly.

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