Many people have asked me, "How can somebody just take another person’s land, even in a country like Kenya?" They also wonder, given that Somali refugees destroyed and now occupy the property, why Fountain of Life is suing the Nairobi City Council as the principal target of its complaint.
The short answer: Corruption.
Each year Transparency International publishes the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) that assigns corruption values to various countries. The CPI score is an indicator of the perceived severity of national corruption as determined by a comprehensive survey of business people and country analysts. The score ranges from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). The most recent results, released late last year, ranked Kenya at a miserable 2.2. What’s more, Transparency International regularly lists chief perpetrators by country and placed the Nairobi City Council as the seventh worst offender in Kenya.
In many cities of the developing world, land rights can be highly uncertain. One never knows if the deed issued to them is truly ‘free and clear’ of encumbrances…or whether it is even legitimate. Even in the case of having good legal title, it only takes a couple of subsequent bribes for paperwork to conveniently disappear or be reevaluated as ‘not good enough.’ This is especially true concerning land parcels that were originally deeded to non-profit humanitarian or religious organizations, like Fountain of Life. With rapidly increasing urbanization, these previously worthless plots situated on the boundaries of slum communities now have a great value…now have a great propensity to cause corruption to rear its loathsome head.
The allegation in this case is that Mr. Rashid paid a bribe to somebody at the Nairobi City Council in order to grab the land of Fountain of Life and other adjacent churches. He then enlisted a group of like-minded radical Muslims to carry out the dirty deed of leveling the home that housed 60 orphaned and abandoned children. Then, after a judge issued an edict that the land could not be developed by Mr. Rashid until the case was settled, Mr. Rashid tried to offer a bribe in order to circumvent the ruling. He was caught (See Red Handed)
The article below appeared in the Kenya Sunday Times last week. I have abridged it, so as to not repeat too much information that has already been presented here previously. It will give you a better sense of some of the underlying issues concerning the destruction of Fountain of Life. Please note that this article came out a couple of days before Mohamed Hussein Rashid was arrested in the bribery snare this past week.
Destitute Children Rendered Homeless
March 10, 2007
By George Kebasso (edited and abridged)
Abandoned as a result of single parenthood, others dumped at garbage sites, and others orphaned due to HIV/AIDS, the fate of 60 destitute boys hangs in the balance after the Nairobi City Council flattened a home which served as their rehabilitation centre barely a week to Christmas, two weeks to a New Year, and three weeks to the re-opening of schools.
This incident further jeopardized the work of Good Samaritans, both from afar and near, in their bid to rejuvenate the otherwise lost souls. However, this has not dampened their spirit to see that these innocent children grow to see an emerging dream come to fruition. The late evangelist James Mbai, who denied himself and his family a lifetime of vanities, had sacrificed for 10 years to care for these abandoned human beings.
As the reality dawned on them that their hope to continue with their education was dashed, the destitute children, aged between 2 to 10 years, neither enjoyed the Christmas festivities celebrated worldwide nor did they usher in the New Year with fanfare.
According to Lameck Mbai, who is now struggling between his studies and overseeing Fountain of Life Children’s Centre, there is a ray of hope for the kids as he tries with the help of another Good Samaritan to secure a place to have them resume this year’s classes.
Mbai pointed an accusing finger at the government for colluding with a private developer, one Mohamed Hussein Rashid, to demolish the 10-year old facility which was founded by the Fountain of Life Christian Church to give a home to HIV/AIDS orphans and children abandoned at birth and after.
Of much concern is that since the incident took place on the night of December 19 last year, and despite 2007 being an election year when politicians are bound to start running around to beg for votes, the area Member of Parliament, Maina Kamanda, has not offered any help and Area Councilor, Joe Aketch, has distanced himself from the issue. Aketch is accused of harboring a secret interest in the land where the home was built since his days as Mayor of Nairobi.
"Interestingly, we have not heard a word from our MP Kamanda or even our Councillor, Joe Aketch," said the young Mbai.
Councilor Aketch is said to have visited the home a month before the fateful demolition was executed, leaving a myriad of questions unanswered.
On the fateful night of the incident, the sixty children, who were mainly rescued from abandonment in the Mathare slums, spent the night in the cold after bulldozers invaded the premises in a surprise attack and demolished the property.
"It appeared to be a (City Council-supported) operation as they even had policemen guarding the machinery," said 23-year old Mbai, who is now in charge of the centre after the demise of his father mid last year. Mbai said that during the operation, which was aided by a contingent of armed police officers and a group of about 50 Muslim youth wielding Somali swords, they were forced to wake all the children and move them.
"We all watched in shock as ten years worth of investment was brought down in less than two hours."
"The children slept in the cold that night," he added. "Not even an eviction order. Just a surprise attack. No wonder they did it at night."
He lamented that an estimated Sh 35 million worth of property was destroyed and looted in full view of the police.
The (Fountain of Life) proprietors have moved to court to seek restraining orders to stop the land grabber, and anybody else who was behind the operation, from carrying out any development on the property.
"It is in the courts that we believe that justice will be served," Mbai said.
The property destroyed included the children’s homes, two office blocks, six classrooms, a food store, a dining hall, a 3000-seat tent that served as the church’s meeting venue, and a recently sunk borehole, not to mention all the valuables that were in the buildings.
Mbai said that the families who took in the boys after the demolition are already very strained and are pressing Fountain of Life to take back the children immediately. "Schools have already opened and all of those 60 children do not have a school to go to now," he added.
Sponsors of the centre, both locally and abroad, have called on the government to move fast and rectify the situation to help the destitute children to continue with their studies. <end>
"Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry." (Exodus 22:22-23, NIV)
"For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:17-18, NASB)
(Image: Two of the FOL boys at the water tank, 2005)