Defining Rights from the Roots: Insights from Council Tenants’ Struggles in Mombasa, Kenya

Abstract

This article documents and discusses the experiences of a movement of low-income council tenants in three housing estates in Mombasa, Kenya’s largest coastal city. The focus of the struggle has been on attaining secure and dignified living conditions. The tenants’ struggle illustrates that there is not only clear articulation of rights at the grassroots level, but also the seeds for an expansion of the arena of legally recognised rights as well as an innovative combination of strategies for realising rights and forcing institutions to be accountable and responsive. This points to the potential of grassroots movements to be the driving force for a more sustainable practice of rights and rights-based development.

Following the Introduction, the second section provides the background and context of the tenants’ struggle, highlighting the problems in response to which the tenants decided to organise and the rights they believe they hold as tenants of the council. The third section discusses the identity of the groups from their own perspective and in relation to their struggle. The fourth section elaborates on the different strategies the tenants employ in pursuing their rights, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. The fifth section concludes by drawing key insights emerging and comments on how these insights could inform thinking on rights and rights-based approaches beyond this specific struggle.

Citation

Musyoki, S.; Nyamu-Musembi, C. Defining Rights from the Roots: Insights from Council Tenants’ Struggles in Mombasa, Kenya. IDS Bulletin (2005) 36 (1) 100-109. [DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.2005.tb00184.x]

Defining Rights from the Roots: Insights from Council Tenants’ Struggles in Mombasa, Kenya

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