May 2, 2019 | Articles

Kibra: The City’s Son

Author: Evans Mutethia
Newsletter: Dandora Daily

There is a city, it’s bold and vibrant. Everyone wants to be a part of it or be named as one of the people who resided within it and her name is Nairobi. But not too far stands determined its son, Kibra. Being one of the largest slums in the world it takes rest about six kilometers south of the country’s capital city. Characterized by iron sheets, backstreets that mimic a maze and the cheerful sounds of children enjoying their games it holds up to one million Kenyan nationals. Noticed as Africa’s largest slum it holds in its embrace people from all walks of life forthcoming from the notion of getting better opportunities in the big city or the ever know the reason for congestion, rural-urban migration.

Before being singled out as its own constituent by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) during the 2013 National General Elections, it was part of Lang’ata constituency as a ward. That being noted during the times of voting and electoral campaigns that was where the gold mine sat, the inhabitants of Kibra. Leaders from all sorts of backgrounds but mostly from the Nyanza region battled it out by emphasizing their manifesto to the good people of Kibra. By devoting their time in office to selflessly submit all their strength and power to deliver: water sanitation, electricity, employment, housing just to name but a few. Through their incentive speeches possibilities were spread to their minds like morning dew on grass. But still same talk and no walk, political leaders would take advantage of the people’s belief and crush it. Therefore, making transparency and accountability in the area a far-fetched vision and made it increasingly hard to put out their grievances to political heads and systems of governance.

Needs by the people of the region for the longest time have not been catered for or at the least been taken seriously. Plans for betterment of the place have been long set into motion but barely make it to see the light of day and this is due to political deceit and fraud. Instead, houses are being demolished and are living the residents homeless and distressed for the government to conduct road expansion activities through the Central Business District. This has been seen recently in the month of July, 2018. At least 30, 000 residents were affected after they relocated to pave way for the construction of Lang’ata-Ng’ong Road link. This was done after resettlement a deal which is yet to be honored was reached and included compensation. And also a sense of betrayal was seen as the highway snaked through their land with them asking where their leaders are and why it was hurriedly done adding on, that the deal that had been agreed upon with Kenya Urban Roads Authority was now up to debate since they now did not want to compensate.

Along with that, in June 24th, 2017 former Nairobi Governor Dr. Evans Kidero visited Kibera after a wall collapsed and killed three people in the region. Hence this then stopped the construction of Kenya Railway Housing units in Kibera until the investigation was concluded. Apart from that, the county government established that the wall was weak and was an indication that the contractor used substandard materials. Leaving into question the leaders who had given out this tender and also how much money was really set aside for this project, showing that the accountability was not questioned whatsoever. Painting into vivid imagery that, it’s not how the work is done instead it is how fast it’s finished.

Aside from that, with Kibera being a strong and firm support base for well-known political party Orange Democratic Republic (ODM) it has come to many people’s understanding that, the people from Kibera are used as foot soldiers by influential leaders to be part of a ploy to ensure their need for power and advantage is well suited for. This begs the need to question the motives of their leaders’ governance all the way from the least important to the most important. That being said after its separation from Lang’ata Constituency it has held home to yet another associate of ODM Ken Okoth who is their member of parliament. Not much has been said about the leader’s governance and his way of doing things but while he has been in charge rocking allegations about electricity and water cartels clouded the region. Bringing into light the issue of transparency in matters to deals with the delivering of services by the people in governance to their people.

Last year is when the advent of this menace took to the media and some more light was shed into the issue. One main thing that the people of Kibra from the beginning have complained about is the lack of water and electricity in the locale. It has been discussed in boardroom meetings, panel debates and even media discussions although the matter remains unsolved. Electricity being one of the main talking points; they are groups within the area whose main exertion is connection of illegal power to people’s houses for an inflated price and for those who can afford it. In addition to that, they were joined efforts between KPLC and the United Nations to generate power to a myriad number of slums across the world. Most of the deal was funded by the United Nations despite the big hand in help by the recognized international body. So good was the deal that there were employment opportunities that was laid for the people from that expanse. Exercises organized by the electricity company were laid out and afterwards areas of Soweto were catered for but just up to some point. After the cartels saw that there business was in anticipated threat ‘foot soldiers’ were set out to act and work. Homes that once enjoyed the sight of light during the long and hazy nights became a brief stint in their already humble lives.

Disconnections throughout the slum were the order of the night and as someone would expect business in a few number of weeks was booming once again. Complaints from tax paying Kenyans within the area about electricity bills started reaching the offices of their heads. Soon enough people within the larger city ran through social media, blog posts and expository documentaries about the high prices involved with electricity. Yet another clear expose on the transparency and accountability of services in the slum.

Irrespective on the situation with the electricity, water also became part and parcel of this package. As said by the residents some of them claimed that this ‘groups’ would break and disconnect water pipes to cause water shortage and sell kibuyu’s of water that are normally 30KSHS to an outrage price of 100KSHS. This caused a lot of panic and life in the slums was made nearly impossible. Revolts and weekly go slows took place in chaotic fashion and life in the slums was not worth living for. Service delivery in the locale has not been properly catered for during the years and still not much has changed from then. From basic to tertiary needs none of them has been completely taken care of, regardless of that many programs and youth projects have found the light of day and slowly but surely has helped in making living bearable and a bit more fulfilling. That can be seen through programs such as Kibra’s very own SHOFCO and the likes.

Towards the end there is still a long race to run but with each hurdle jumped the city’s son is maturing into a better place.

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