Commission 18 Statement on the arrest of 27 housing activists in Kenya
The ILPS Commission 18 for the Struggles of Homeless, Urban Poor, and Internally Displaced denounces the arbitrary arrest of 27 human rights defenders in Kenya. The Kenyan government’s actions undermine the basic right to protest and access to decent and affordable public housing.
On May 8th, police nabbed the activists in their respective offices after an alleged riotous act. The 27 had simply protested against the wave of forced evictions in Mathare, an informal settlement recently affected by extreme floods and one of the largest in the country. They were temporarily released due to lack of evidence but not after being detained overnight and posting an exorbitant amount for bail, especially given their low-income status.
The Kenyan government should be upholding the welfare of its citizens, especially urban poor communities that are most vulnerable to disasters. The unprecedented climate catastrophes we are experiencing globally further exacerbate their already unjust living conditions. Instead of evictions, the government should act to mitigate these effects through pro-people policies like affording people mass housing and livable wages.
As long as governments continue to prioritize private capital over the welfare of the people – and the root causes of poverty and inequality remain unaddressed – the cycle of evictions will never end.
Despite increasing attacks on housing rights, communities all over the world have been organizing and asserting their right to have dignified housing and a better quality of life. In the Philippines, both corporate and state-led demolitions have been sparking protests of urban poor communities across the archipelago. Hundreds of Belgians also recently staged a demonstration against a nationwide housing crisis caused by the private sector’s dominance in the market. Meanwhile, the housing justice movement in the United States has actively resisted the criminalization of homelessness since the start of the year.
Mobilizing and defending communities in the name of decent and affordable housing is justified.
We stand with the Mathare community’s struggle and call for the immediate dismissal of charges against the 27 housing rights defenders. We demand the Kenyan government to respect and protect the rights of all citizens to rightfully seek justice and a better future.

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