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Campanha Despejo Zero

Official Statement for the W Nairobi W! Campaign

Fantini, photo 3

Photo: Francesco Fantini

In March 2004, over 300.000 people were threatened by the Government of Kenya to be forcibly evicted from their makeshift dwellings: demolition of the hovels began immediately in a violent re-urbanization plan which offered no alternatives.

A Kenya-Italy committee came together and in a short time, the Kenyan government, the Municipality of Nairobi, UN-Habitat and other authorities were swamped with over 6000 email protest messages.

This international initiative, undertaken within the framework of the global Zero Evictions campaign , together with the combined efforts of the slum dwellers, several embassies, ONGs and churches, brought the demolitions and the forced evictions to a halt. This was our first victory!
Focus was subsequently aimed on the campaign to swap Kenya’s debt towards Italy, after which the funds released would be utilized to find housing solutions for the slum dwellers.
Thus the Campaign became an authentic movement to help Nairobi Live.
W Nairobi W is composed of:

  • The Kutoka Parish Network, of Nairobi, with the direct participation of the Combonian Missionaries and the Missionaries of the Consolata (E-mail: combonikario@clubinternetk.com);
  • The Justice and Peace Commission of the Combonian Missionaries in Italy (E-mail: gimpadova@giovaniemissione.it);
  • The International Alliance of Inhabitants (E-mail: info@habitants.org);
  • Tam Tam Association for Korogocho (E-mail: tamtamperkorogocho@virgilio.it).

Having succeeded in stopping the evictions, WNW has launched a new appeal , whose objective is to work on the structural issues which are among the causes for so many people to end up living in slums: Regulation and redistribution of land, in parallel with plans for improvements in housing and urban development.
The aim is to reach this goal by linking this issue to the swap of Kenya’s ‘foreign debt’: an act of justice linked to the collective, shared control of the funds which would be cleared and made available.
The channels that the campaign proposes for achieving this objective are:

  • The creation of a People’s Fund for land and housing : This experience has been successfully accomplished elsewhere.
  • The participation of all involved parties, first of all the slum dwellers.
  • To organize a meeting to be held by the end of 2005, the participants being the representatives of the Kenyan and Italian governments and those of other “creditor” countries, the Municipal Administration of Nairobi, the religious communities, the representatives of the population and WNW. This encounter should take place in Nairobi, promoted and coordinated by UN Habitat.

Until now, the campaign has been working towards:

  • A continuing effort to raise awareness and to inform, both in Kenya and abroad: A photo exhibit , books and videos about the eviction emergency have been circulating in Italy and abroad over the past few months. There have been public forums involving witnesses, about 150.000 postcards , have been sent to the Treasury Ministry and the Italian Bishop’s Conference in an effort to bring these issues to their attention. Articles and reports have been published in various important newspapers and magazines, tv and radio interviews have been held and over 10.000 web pages, including the main websites of the no-global movement, have published information on this topic; WNW has direct contact with hundreds of thousands of people and virtually many more by means of these communication channels.
  • Exhibits and events regarding the debt, such as popular theatre, tv and radio shows, editorials in local papers and sports tournaments have been organized in Kenya. Furthermore, the Kenyan Commission of Bishops have spoken out against the debt in an open letter.
  • Interaction with the authorities. Many local administrations and authorities are supporting the campaign, even with official ordnances; many are willing to participate economically in the creation of a fund for the re-urbanization of Nairobi. The Union of Italian Provinces has officially acknowledged the campaign and several provinces (Venice is at the head of the list) are doing so right now. Also involved are the Municipality Support Network and ANCI.
  • Beneath this surge of public pressure,, the Italian Church also became directly involved, in collaboration with the Justice and Solidarity Foundation. Furthermore, the WNW representatives participated in a meeting with Dr. Di Muzio of the General Office for Cooperation and Development (Italian Foreign Ministry), who was asked to make contact with the Kenyan government to foster the swapping of Kenya’s debt with Italian creditors; Minister Spinedi, head of the Foreign Debt Department; the Italian Ambassador to Kenya, De Maio, who was asked to petition the different parties involved, and set up a table of discussion which would produce operative results.

We hereby ask:
The Italian ambassador to Kenya to foster political action, starting from active participation in preparing the year end meeting between the authorities and the communities involved; we hope he will favor a re-urbanization process, starting with the upgrading of one or two slums onto government-owned land, through the transfer of the tenure of that land to the communities involved, as a first step in the swap of Kenya’s debt to Italy. This is to be considered an experimental phase of a more extensive process, which implies the swap of Kenya’s debts to other creditor countries and an ensuing reorganization of urban development policies, beginning with sanctioning the right of Nairobi’s poorest inhabitants to a home.
We ask the Italian government in the person of Minister Spinedi, head of the Foreign Debt Department, to apply law 209/00, which affirms “all debts owed to Italy are annulled (…)” . This law regards countries with low income, including Kenya. On Kenya’s part, the obligations set forth in the rules of enactment (regarding the agreement between creditor countries participating in the Paris Club) should be respected.
We ask the Government of Kenya: To launch a 5 year moratorium on the demolitions and evictions, so as to consent the development of urban reform policies and the upgrading of the slums.
The WNW campaign is perfectly integrated within the framework of the debt swapping movement. In particular, we support the network of Kenyan associations, which are soliciting their government to request the complete swap of its debt. With these initiatives, WNW are demonstrating to the anti debt movement that this is an effective, well defined, controllable and concrete path towards swapping debt with mutually developed social policies.
We hereby re-launch the W Nairobi W! Campaign: our endeavor to raise consciousness and gain the support of local authorities and associations will continue until we get credible results.

Every step of the WNW campaign has been documented on www.giovaniemissione.it and www.habitants.org

History of the Campaign

The Beginning
The “W Nairobi W” campaign arose in March 2004 , when eviction notices were served that affected more than 300,000 people living in some of the 200 poor districts of Nairobi, and 5% of the geographical area of the entire city. The total inhabitants number 4 million, and 2.5 million live in crowded conditions. In accordance with official orders the first shanty-towns were demolished in order to build a motorway and distance the dwellers from the railway and the electricity network.
The Kutoka Parish Network asked for local and international mobilization with the support of the International Alliance of Inhabitants (AIH, www.habitants.org ) which itself is included in the Worldwide Campaign for Zero Evictions, along with Combonians Missionaries (www.giovaniemissione.it ), Tam Tam for Korogocho , the Network of Humanitarian Town Halls (200 Italian municipalities), the Town Halls of Roma, Padua, and the province of Venice, and the Union of Italian provinces (104 provinces).

The First Victory

In a short time more than 10,000 emails from all over the world have been sent to the Kenyan government, the mayor of Nairobi, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and to UN-Habitat, to denounce the forced evictions that offered no alternatives to the evictees.
Thanks to this initiative, which reinforce the local mobilization, the demolition and the forced evictions have been interrupted. This is the first victory, and signals that Kenya takes notice of international pressure.
Despite this, the situation of the shanty-town dwellers is still in doubt: the government has only suspended operations, and has made no statement regarding the future. The people still live precariously and the housing conditions in the 200 poor districts are dramatically bad.

The Second Phase

The campaign therefore continues on to the second phase of action with another proposal: to relate the question of debt to policies of dignified living. Kenya owes more than 6.5 billion dollars to international financiers.
The proposals are specific: the suspension of demolitions and evictions for the next five years, a period of time necessary for reform, redistribution of land, urban improvement and improvements in housing in the areas inhabited by the poor. These objectives are achievable simply by creating a participatory process of awareness that is transparent in its methods (People’s Fund for Land and Housing), where funds that have been freed up by the cancellation of foreign debt can be channeled.
This phase will be realized:
In Italy through;

  • the sending of 150,000 postcards to the Italian Treasury Minister, and to the Secretary General of the CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference);
  • the collaboration with the Justice and Solidarity Foundation;
  • dozens of meetings in the principal Italian cities;
  • the signing of a Collaboration Protocol with Venice Province;
  • the dissemination of a photographic exhibition, a book, DVD and videos about the shanty-towns of Nairobi;
  • the presence of the campaign in the main Italian media (press, web and television)

In Kenya through;

  • dozens of meetings in Nairobi (embassies, UN-Habitat, NGOs, communities);
  • mobilization within the shanty-town districts;
  • promotion of a process of empowering local leaders;
  • specific meetings on “Debt versus housing policies” in Tangaza College (a Catholic Inter-African University) and in the Italian Cultural Centre;
  • the production of a report about Kenyan debt together with the Kenyan Debt Relief Network;
  • the development of common initiatives with AFJN (Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network) and AMECEA (the Episcopal Conference of East Africa), that will include a pastoral letter drawn up by the bishops of Kenya and dealing with the question of debt and housing security;
  • the presence of the campaign in principal networks.

In the long term this phase will establish local and international contacts through the participation of the members of the campaign:

  • in “Italian caravan of the Peace”
  • in the Urban World Forum (Barcelona)
  • in the Social Forum of the Americas (Ecuador)
  • in the European Social Forum (London)
  • in the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre)
  • in the Italian campaign Sdebitarsi (Debt Cancellation)


Statement , W Nairobi W