Mr Nyakundi's story is not exceptional in a city where 2.65 million of its four million inhabitants live in slums. He is part of what is known as the "invisible majority" of Nairobians who face long-term consequences of land-grabbing and murky title deeds, prey to slum lords who have made vast profits from building shantytowns on contested land and using the notoriously corrupt police and courts system to protect their investments. What is unusual is that he has turned to the same judicial system to put an end to the epidemic of forced evictions.
Along with 40 of his neighbours, he brought a petition this month naming some of Kenya's most powerful individuals, companies and banks, demanding rights to the land they live on and an end to forced evictions. Among the respondents, who must now answer the petition, are the former President Daniel arap Moi – who oversaw land grants in the area – and Cyrus Jirongo, a presidential contender who is among the landowners. The petitioners, who are being supported by an umbrella group for slum-dwellers, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, have succeeded in obtaining an injunction barring any further evictions in an area of Mukuru that is home to more than 100,000 people. The implications of the case are enormous in a city where 67 per cent of the population lives on less than 2 per cent of the land. The petition is being seen as a test for Kenya's much-vaunted new constitution that passed a referendum last year and is supposed to guarantee peoples' rights to adequate housing and secure tenure.
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