25.01.2007 22 °C
I've got some photos at the bottom of this on my visit to the elephant orphanage to cheer you up.
But first, I'll update you on our slum demolishion which Christina has likened to 'cleansing' activities in her country before world war 2.
Sunday things were quite as lots of people tried to salvage what they could.. either from the wreckage or from the houses which hadn't been knocked down. Sarah came and did our laundry. We gave her a little extra which she used to get a 'cube' in another slum 45 minutes away... until that one gets knocked down.
Tuesday night the demolishers came back. This time the slum-dwellers were ready for them and built a fire in the driveway up to the slum between two walls so nobody could pass. The fire was at least 10 feet high. Some shouting. Some things thrown. The demolishers left.
Wednesday, I got home from work and saw some Black guys in Suits and Indian/White guys in T-shirts standing in the middle together. I went down to see what was going on and the World Social Forum organisers were holding a press conference. A guy was talking quietly to the journalists, saying that there were clear international guidelines on how these things should be done and they had not been followed... and he would be making this clear to the Kenyan government in his report. I found out later he was the UN special Raporteur for The Right to Adequate Housing. It was good to know that people were taking an interest and trying to help (even if it was only because thousands of activists were in town for the world social forum). They were going to court the next morning to get an injunction to get it stopped.
Then about 11pm last night we heard noises again. Looking out the window, the fire was back. People were throwing things again.. but this time the demolishers thugs got through. Lots of men with big sticks. More shouting. More screaming. An american started yelling insults out of his hotel window. Then the lights came from the other side of the slum. The bulldozer had found another entrance. It was crushing the remaining houses. The battle for their homes was over. The land cleared. 500 people homeless. The court hearing useless.
Why do they come at night? ....darkness hides bad things
Why did they want it demolished .. had somebody bought the land? Was it because its an election year and the government doesn't want people living in squalour close to the city centre?
Was it because the slum was close to the President's house?
Nobody seems to know.
It is true that the land did not belong to the slum dwellers, but to somebody else. What should that person do with the land that they have spent money on purchasing? If he/she wants to develop or use their land then people will lose their homes, but they shouldn't have to lose them like this.
It brings back to me some comments from the activists at the World Social Forum last weekend. In Indian lady, Vandana... something... said that capitlism and commercialism are destroying our world and preventing development for the poor. Now there are many people who believe that the private sector can help development in African countries. And perhaps, yes, there is a role.. you believe this when you see how government officials or civil servants have no interest in doing their job effectively to help people because they don't personally gain anything from it.
However, Vandana ranted about how the policy of putting a dollar price to everything- be it land, water, air, food, grazing rights, fishing rights, right to pollute (carbon trading) damages poor communities. Now you're considered poor if you live on less than a dollar a day. But 40 years ago, you could live on 50 cents but get your water, housing and feed your cattle on common land. Not any longer. You may have 2 or 3 or 10 dollars a day and be far worse off.
Should the land on which these people live have ever had a price attached to it? Should it have belonged to the owner? Can there be justice in a capitalist world?
Perhaps... Perhaps not.
Ok, enough thinking. Time for photos!