In Kibera, very quietly, people are being moved from their mud houses to new modern apartments.
This is happening quietly after President Uhuru declined to officially ‘see off’ the transition from mud houses to modern livable apartments.
It’s understandable why he would not want to go to Kibera and it’s also understandable why the whole process is not such a ‘big news’.
On the first charge, Uhuru as finance minister was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the construction of new, modern livable houses for residents of Kibera. He declined to allocate funds to slum upgrading. Where he had no choice, he sabotaged disbursements, so that no serious work would continue.
One other way those who sabotaged the development of new houses used was to always get court injunctions to stop works. Waititu was among such vexatious litigants. So bad had the sabotage from the finance ministry and courts that at some point when Raila wanted to break ground for the new houses which people are moving in now, he had to invite President Kibaki to ‘break the ground’.
Kibaki, naturally, in his later years, supported development; regardless of who it would benefit politically.
For those who were plotting post-Kibaki politics in PNU circles, any major improvement of the slum was seen as a major boost to Raila hence had to be sabotaged.
They were not the first; in 2004 when Raila, then Roads, Public Works and Housing got massive funding by UN-Habitat to begin work on upgrading a number of Kenyan urban slums; his ministry was divided in a mini-cabinet reshuffle and the housing docket given to Amos Kimunya, then minister for lands. This happened when Raila had negotiated billions of shillings just days earlier. In fact, he was still away in New York when news reached him.
With Housing billions given to Kimunya, the legendary Mt. Kenya looting spree ensued. In the intervening period, nothing substantial would occur in the housing sector, particularly in relation to slum upgrades, till Raila returned to government in mid 2008. And once again, sabotage ensued.
Despite all these, with the support of Kibaki and the fact that as Prime Minister Mr. Odinga bulldozed uncomfortable policy interventions using the text of the ‘ national accord’ (which him gave quasi-executive powers), hundreds of modern houses were constructed and thousands of Kibera residents moved in; but thousands more still remained in the shanties. Some buildings were complete but court cases delayed occupancy. More buildings were at various stages of construction. Time had lapsed and a new regime came to power.
Under Uhuru, the earlier saboteur of modern housing in slums, ‘slum upgrade’ assumed new meaning. It was no longer about pulling down shanty structures and constructing modern, livable houses – houses that allowed families to inculcate values in their kids. Slum upgrade under Uhuru assumed what they referred to as ‘youth empowerment’ where young people would be given brooms, spades, jembes and t-shirts and turned into casual labourers for the state as their biometric information got picked for 2017 rigging. There were other subtler things which happened; including billions ripped off poor people by the likes of Mutahi Ngunyi.
Looting in the name of ‘slum youth empowerment’ became the order of the day, until Raila Odinga, once again, put an end to the nonsense and SACKED Anne Waiguru. Yes, he did!
Since 2013, no new housing scheme has been developed by Uhuru. To understand why you must understand what philosophy drives Uhuru regime in relation to slum settlements.
Raila looked at slums as things which shouldn’t exist. So, he never ‘formalized’ life in slums. He believed through government intervention measures, slums could be eradicated and he worked, in spite of the sabotage, towards this end.
Uhuru’s ideas on slums are unknown. However, if we look at his four years in power; we can conclude that he believes slums should have clean trenches, have electricity and police posts. In other words, he doesn’t believe in eradicating slums. His government had been the biggest pacifier of slums.
With a trillion shilling budget; for three years now, improving housing in slums has not been a budgetary option for Uhuru regime. Which is sad.
So this week, as slum dwellers moved out of the open sewers and pit latrines to modern livable houses, it was fitting to give the event a total media black-out.
Hon. Ken Okoth should write a personal appreciation on behalf of those who moved to the new houses and deliver it to Mr. Odinga…the man who believed slums could be eradicated. To not do so is to not appreciate the long and tortuous years of the struggle