Posted on 3 June 2020
Ruth Mumbi is a woman human rights defender and coordinator of Bunge La Wamama Mashihani, a grassroots social justice movement campaigning for women’s rights and providing women with a training, education and information platform in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya. She is also the coordinator of the Grassroots Women Initiative Network (GRAWINET).
Mumbi was first made aware of forced evictions about to take place with 24-hour notice in the Kariobangi informal settlement on 2 May 2020. She contacted local human rights organisations asking them to go to court on the residents’ behalf. The eviction was blocked by a court order by the Kenya High Court on 3 May, but the local administration refused to receive it. Approximately 5,000 households were evicted and their houses bulldozed on 4 May.
Mumbi saw the immediate aftermath of the evictions on 4 May, and she returned to the settlement on 5 May with HRDs Beatrice Karore, David Wanyoike and Emily Kwamboka to assess and report on the evictions through social media. The HRDs interviewed residents, and posted videos, photographs and testimonies on social media to raise awareness about the situation, and to get local media to take notice. This allowed them to gain financial support to enable some of the residents to relocate.
On 12 May 2020 Mumbi received a phone call from a man identifying himself as a police officer from Kariobangi police station, threatening to disappear her if she did not stop advocating for the eviction victims. Mumbi posted the threat on social media and reported the call to Kariobangi Police Station. The police initially refused to record the incident, and only recorded it after an intervention from human rights organisations. However, the police have so far not taken any concrete steps towards investigating the incident.
Mumbi has received this threat while lawfully working for the protection of human rights. The Centre for Applied Human Rights expresses grave concern for the safety of Ruth Mumbi, and urges the Kenyan Government to take steps to ensure a thorough investigation of the threats Mumbi has received, as well as the initial refusal by the police to record the incident, and to guarantee her safety in her work as a human rights defender. The Centre for Applied Human Rights also expresses its concern for the evicted residents of the Kariobangi informal settlement and urges the Kenyan government to ensure urgent resettlement of the residents, considering the increased risk the evictions put them at during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For more information, please see:
Front Line Defenders: Death threat against WHRD Ruth Mumbi
OHCHR: Covid-19 crisis, Kenya urged to stop all evictions and protect housing rights defenders
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs: Ruth Mumbi threatened with being "disappeared"