Since as long as I can remember, there has been a project to lift the face of each slum in this country. I remember when growing up, there was this Mathare 4A slum upgrade project. A slum with over 500,000 people had a facelift on one side, a really small potion that displaced about 10,000 slum dwellers to create brick houses for about 3,000. The project was supposed to move on but it stalled after that first phase. Simply, the project lacked proper planning, where were you to take 70% of the people living there if you were only to build houses that only accommodate 30% of the people? That is just simple math. It is just one of many cases.
When we talk of impunity, we forget a lot of things and concentrate only on the political classes that are not necessarily supporting the agenda of the day. I read an interesting commentary on the Daily Nation by Macharia Gaitho on the fire tragedy in Mukuru Sinai. He blamed it on impunity, citing the fact that there has been warnings, the government knew that it was a tragedy in the waiting but the people who lived there blackmailed leaders so and since the leaders needed votes they let them stay – that is getting votes at whatever cost. Now, over 100 lives have been lost, we have politicians running to try and salvage the situation or share the moment with the victims. This is absolutely right but the truth is that someone knew it was going to happen, they let it come because they needed votes and if you evict 100,000 people due to the risk of such a tragedy, it will cost you votes.
We have Kibera, 2nd largest slum in Africa. It is home to almost 200,000 people and more than enough NGOs. There has been all sorts of projects in this slum (and others) trying to eradicate poverty, educate the children, upgrade the housing, fight HIV, fight crime and every other thing you can think of. Question, where is the score card? Besides driving huge vehicles and living in fancy homes, what have these NGOs achieved for Kibera? I have no official statistics, but each time I go to Kibera it seems worse than it was the last time.
This is a common problem in most of our slums. Churches and all sorts of organizations claim to work and get support either from willing donors or the residents in the name of service provision. I know one of the largest churches in this country is based next to a slum, with a huge percentage of its congregation coming from the slum, meaning they tithe and give offering each Sunday, but how does that change their lives? The pastor of this specific church drives a custom Benz and his son rides a Subaru. I feel sad when I think that these are the same people said to be surviving on under a dollar a day.
It is the responsibility of the media, to expose the need (the real need) and more so the role of government to regulate what happens. Each of these slums is represented by an MP in parliament, they need change.
As long as an MP shows up with money during elections, they get elected and eventually, he goes back to try and recover his loses. My challenge to the people of the slums and every other place is to look at the quality of leadership of each individual before you elect them. Do not accept handouts, that is simply selling your rights.
The government and the NGO council need to make sure that each registered NGO is operating within guidelines and is beneficial to the community. Any of these who have made slums their cash cows should be de-registered and punished. MPs and other leaders should also keep watch and ignore projects that are aimed at benefiting individuals at the expense of slum dwellers. It is time we fought poverty to avoid calamities like the pipeline fire.
The government needs to also find ways of distributing resources to all counties to avoid crowding in the cities. People can have better lives if they would get jobs in their counties. It will also develop the country in a balanced manner as opposed to the current centralization of all resources. Poverty in Kenya can only be fought if we keep away from corrupt leaders and distributing resources to all counties. This will give each Kenyan equal opportunity and it will mean a better life for every Kenyan.