NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 16 – At least 1,200 families residing in Soweto East village of the sprawling Kibera slums were on Wednesday relocated to the new 600 housing units in the ongoing slum upgrading programme.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga who presided over the transfer said the relocation was to give way for the construction of modern houses in Soweto East village and the government was now sourcing for extra funds.
“The new houses will have a market, schools, health facilities and other basic amenities,” the Premier said.
“There is no need of building a modern house while poverty remains high. We have to fight three enemies, poverty, illiteracy and disease,” he added.
The Prime Minister warned those who had corruptly acquired land in the area that public land had to remain as such and said the government would not be cowed through illegally acquired title deeds.
“It is unfortunate that some land grabbers are quick to seek refuge in the sanctity of title deeds; but sanctity of titles does not apply to stolen land,” he stated.
Kibera is East and Central Africa’s largest slum with an estimated 750,000 people living in the slum.
The Premier who is also the area Member of Parliament said the completion of this first phase of the permanent houses in Soweto East was the beginning of a larger project designed to upgrade the living environment of the residents by improving access to basic services such as shelter, water and sanitation, education, health, security, employment and income generation opportunities.
He noted that slums were officially referred to as informal settlements which meant that in government records the settlements don’t exist thus the government provided nothing, not schools, toilets or even hospitals.
“In this context coming up with low income housing to replace slums has to include budgets for amenities that the government has refrained from,” he said.
Housing Minister Soita Shitanda said phase two of the project would see 2,000 houses constructed.
“Access to funds is usually the problem but we will use what we have. I think if we have money we can finish upgrading Kibera slum in less than five years,” the Minister said.
In some cases, different families may have to share the same roof as each is getting a room equivalent to what they had previously because the houses are to be used as transitional ones. The move was received with mixed reactions by the area residents.
“Sharing is a problem because there are some people who are dirty and others who are clean, I see like women will fight in there. They (government) should look at that to ensure everyone has their own house,” said Beatrice Omondi one of the beneficiaries.
“We are happy with the programme because it will enable us start a new and better life,” said Caleb Enduire another resident while Ann Mutuiri said: “I am not part of this programme but next time I will be there. It will at least help us change the environment.”
The Prime Minister said the relocation was part of a wider Kenya slum Upgrading Programme that would also target Mavoko, Mombasa and Kisumu.
Those who were moved would pay a monthly fee of Sh1, 000 which would include Sh500 for rent, Sh300 for electricity and Sh200 for water.