Declaration of the IDEAMAPS Community of Practice (COP) regarding the ongoing eviction crisis in Nairobi, Kenya
June 27, 2024
Monika Kuffer


The recent devastating floods in Nairobi, Kenya that began in late April have killed hundreds of people and affected thousands of structures (see official UNOSAT map of flooded area here). This news has been covered by local and international media. The flood affected all parts of Nairobi. Nairobi is a city with high spatial inequalities. Around 60% of the inhabitants live in informal settlements (making up only around 5% of the built-up areas).  

What is not covered in local and international media is the aftermath of the flood. As a reaction to the flood, the Kenyan government decided to evict informal settlements along the riparian areas (along rivers) in a 60 m zone (30 m on each side of the river). Consequently, over 180,000 people have lost, or are in the process of losing, their homes. Evictions following the law require a minimum time of notice (e.g., 3 months, according to the Land Act), while the Government gave a 48-hour notice for the residents to vacate the area. Furthermore, to avoid long-term adverse impacts, a proper resettlement programme is required. The present situation is that each family displaced by flooding were promised 10,000 Kenyan Shillings (72 Euros, 77 US dollars) in aid, in addition to provision of basic needs, e.g., food and mattresses. Community leaders collected and provided the names of victims, though many families have not yet been paid. Families that have been paid face few available shelter options given the scale of demand. Moreover, landlords are increasing rents, approximately doubling costs. This leaves a large number of families without shelter. A large number of informal dwellers are now refugees within their own city.

This flooding-plus-eviction crisis could have been mitigated by a preventive government response. The local authorities were informed by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) in October 2023 about the El Nino effects on the upcoming rainy season, but the government gave little weight to the predictions and did not develop preparedness plans. In late March, the city was first struck by severe floodings, resulting in the loss of 13 people in the Mathare community. After less than a month, the long rains persisted for over two weeks, when Nairobi County became one of the most affected areas in the country. By the first week of May, over 40,000 people were affected in informal settlements. Unfortunately, with no flood management plan, the State response was the demolition of houses along the rivers, resulting in large-scale evictions in the poorest areas of the city.

To paint the situation of Nairobi’s informal settlements with one brush would be inaccurate. While some residents have settled the land informally and have no claim to ownership, others were settled by previous government programs or are descendants of colonial-era plantation workers. While Nairobi’s informal settlements can be characterized by low-income housing built out of necessity; they also reflect multi-generation communities where families have built homes. Resettlement, even for sensible, justified reasons such as climate mitigation in riparian zones, requires a humanistic approach where all parties are engaged to find common ground for just and orderly transition.

We (IDEAMAPS COP and associated researchers and projects) are generating evidence about the scale of evictions and justice issues around them. For example:

  • We are working with community-based groups to support their mapping efforts. This allows them to document the houses that have been evicted. This will be important evidence for court cases.
  • We also document examples where a distinction is made between places selected for eviction based on the socio-economic condition of the inhabitants.

We call attention to this climate injustice and recommend prompt development of disaster response plans at the local level in alignment with local needs and knowledge. Spatial data on climate exposure, risks, and vulnerabilities can support the acknowledgement and understanding of affected population, as well as the dialogue between government and communities.

Figure 1. An example of eviction in Nairobi, leaving the inhabitants without a shelter.
Figure 2. An evicted area in Nairobi, inhabitants trying to find belongings.
Figure 3. An evicted area in Mathare, Nairobi, Planet images showing the zone of eviction.
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