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by Judy Ogutu, 21 August, The Standard

A move by the Government to upgrade Kibera slums has suffered a major setback.

The High Court yesterday issued conservatory orders stopping the Government from demolishing structures of those living in Kibera’s Soweto East area.

The relocation of residents was to start today in an exercise where President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were to attend.

Lady Justice Abida Ali-Aroni said the orders would remain in force until August 28 when the case is set to be heard inter parties.

“The conservatory order is issued up to August 28 restraining the respondents from demolishing houses of petitioners in Zone A Soweto East,” she ruled. Aroni’s ruling arose out of an application by 84 people living in Kibera.

They say if the Government has to upgrade the houses as it has proclaimed under the Slum Upgrading Programme, adequate compensation has to be put in place. On August 14, the Government gave residents a month to vacate from Soweto East in an area classified as Zone A.

Through their advocate, Mr Kibe Mungai, they accused the Government of reducing the programme into a housing issue and forgetting other interests like the landlords.

The landless, he added, had no problem moving to the new houses.

The group had on Wednesday filed an urgent suit at the Nairobi Law Courts.

Named as respondents are the Attorney General, Lands Minister and Commissioner of Lands.

Real issues

In the ruling, Aroni said the applicants were raising “weighty matters.”

However, she said the court could not adjudicate on the real issues until all parties are present in court.

The group said it was not opposed to movement of tenants from the structures in Kibera but were against demolition of the structures before they are issued with leases to the plots.

Justice Aroni heard that the 84 had acquired legitimate interest in the area, which cannot be taken away against the law.

According to them, Section 75 of the Constitution gives them property rights and interests in the structures and plots they occupy.

Kibe claimed some of the residents, Nubians, were settled in the area by the Government between 1960 and 1980. Others he said were Mau Mau veterans and their descendants.

Read all about: Kibera

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