Pope Francis laments land grab, poor housing in Kenyan slums

Pope Francis has called for fairness in the distribution of land and the provision of housing in Kenya’s towns and cities to stop the marginalisation of poor households living in slums.

Speaking when he visited Nairobi’s Kangemi neighbourhood this morning, the Pontiff said that “faceless private developers contribute to the unfair distribution of land”, leading to urban exclusion.

“These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned filthy and run-down properties,” he said.

“The social and environmental debt owed to the poor of cities can be paid by respecting their sacred right to land, lodging and labour. This is not a question of philanthropy rather it is a duty incumbent of all of us.”

More than half

Nairobi has over the years seen an increase in slum dwellings with Kibera believed to be one of the largest in Africa.
It is estimated that more than half of the urban dwellers across the country live in informal settlements.

The Pope lamented that due to the hoarding of land families were being forced to pay excessive and unfair rents for unfit housing.

Most of the people in the low-income class within Kenya’s capital city, for instance, can only afford to live in informal settlements.

Many of these informal settlements, he said, lacked access to basic services and infrastructure.
“To deny a family water under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever is a great injustice especially when one profits from this need,” he said.

Residents of informal settlements are further exposed to the dangers of criminal organisations and are the most affected when “violence serving economic or political interests spreads”.

In the last year, however, there has been some progress, with the government through the National Youth Service and non-governmental organisations putting efforts into improving access to basic facilities in slum dwellings.

The national electricity distributor Kenya Power, for instance, increased connections from 5,000 households to over 150,000, in just one year by adopting a community-based approach.

Pope Francis noted that those living in informal areas had created bonds of belonging and togetherness which made living in the overcrowded areas an experience of community.

“The wisdom found in poor neighbourhoods which is expressed in values like solidarity, sacrifice finding a place for the sick in one’s home, sharing bread with the hungry and showing strength during aersity can offer something to the times we live in. These values are grounded in the fact that each human being is more important than the god of money,” he said.