Tensions flared in Mombasa’s Changamwe district as bulldozers rolled in to demolish 84 houses, displacing dozens of families to pave the way for a new affordable housing project. Anger and frustration hung heavy in the air as residents watched their homes crumble, raising questions about government priorities and the true face of progress.
The 57-acre National Housing Corporation (NHC) land, home to these communities for decades, was designated for the ambitious government project aimed at tackling Kenya’s critical housing shortage. However, for the displaced residents, the promise of affordable housing for some came at a devastating cost for others.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years, raised my children here,” wailed Amina Hassan, tears streaming down her face as she salvaged belongings from the rubble. “Where will I go now? The government gave us only two weeks’ notice. How can they just demolish our lives?”
Many residents echoed Amina’s anguish, sharing stories of broken promises and unfulfilled compensation offers. Some questioned the timing, coinciding with the rainy season, leaving families exposed and desperate.
“They talk about affordable housing, but who can afford to rebuild their lives after this?” asked John Mwangi, a carpenter who lost his tools and workshop in the demolition. “They haven’t offered proper alternative accommodation or fair compensation. This is not development, it’s destruction.”
While proponents of the project highlight the urgent need for affordable housing, particularly in congested urban areas, the Changamwe demolitions cast a shadow on the initiative’s social impact. Critics argue that the government must prioritize human rights and community well-being alongside infrastructure development.
“Building houses is important, but not at the cost of leaving people homeless and destitute,” stated human rights activist Mary Wambui. “The government needs to ensure proper resettlement plans, fair compensation, and transparent communication before bulldozing people’s lives.”
The Changamwe evictions serve as a stark reminder of the complex challenges that accompany development projects. Balancing progress with social responsibility and ensuring equitable outcomes requires careful planning, transparent communication, and genuine engagement with affected communities.
“This is not just about bricks and mortar,” emphasized community leader Joseph Otieno. “It’s about people, their lives, their stories. The government needs to acknowledge the human cost of their plans and work with us, not against us, to build a future that benefits everyone.”
As the dust settles in Changamwe, the echoes of frustration linger. The promise of affordable housing for some remains overshadowed by the immediate pain of displacement for others. Whether the government can learn from this experience and navigate future development projects with greater sensitivity and inclusivity remains to be seen. The path forward requires listening to the voices of those left behind, ensuring that progress leaves no one behind in the rubble.