By Dikembe Disembe
What exactly is Ann Waiguru doing in Kibera?
Some say she is cleaning it up, removing the filth and draining the sewer lines. In doing so, we are told youths are getting employed and women are getting empowered.
Others say she is politicking, and politicking with fire. That she is setting up Kibera for manslaughter.
The government needs Kibera slums, these people say, and the government can’t get it whole; so, it is dividing it up. The scramble for and partition of Kibera.
Government want Kibera for nubians, Kibera for Luos, Kibera for Kikuyus. It wants Kibera for youths and women.
This is not how it has always been. A decade of Kibera renaissance, when someone ‘prominent’ vied in there and started an ugly conversation around changing the the situation of those living in ‘vitongoji duni’, one hallmark of that social process has been that the people of Kibera lived amongst themselves as ‘one community’.
Kibera has not always been in the government’s mind. For a long time, like 88 other slums here in Nairobi, successive government policymakers literally ‘wiped out’ Kibera from reach of government services.
You know, they like to pander around this issue. It is only this one slum that attracts the most petty of the anti-Raila groupies.
This is not difficult to understand. For a slum as old as Nairobi, Kibera is synonymous with Raila Odinga because he sought election in it to change it, and when he became MP, he started about changing it, and gave it first the prominence and publicity it needed to capture the attention of the government, then, the world.
Ever been in a situation where you feel something should change about an issue but there is just no voice to start a conversation around that issue?
That was Kibera before Odinga. To some people, especially those who now control the propaganda wing of the Jubilee government, they just don’t want to believe that Kibera existed before Raila Odinga.
To them, Raila was born the MP of Kibera. He went to nursery school as the honourable member of parliament for Kibera. As an adolescent, Raila was the youngest lawmaker of Kibera. In short, in his 69 years of existence, there are people in this country – majority from central kenya – who can’t fathom that Kibera preexisted Raila Odinga.
They are thoroughly modern, well educated and vastly travelled; yet these Kenyans are some of the most closed minded human beings in the planet.
Their mental blockade are as a result of years of social engineering into the fallacy of the ‘Luo bogeyman’ – the fiendish character always at loggerheads with our ‘progress as a people’ and ‘interest as a community’.
Of course it is all politics, but the worst form of historical political revisionism ever.
Now, hear me out. Kibera was here at the beginning. It preceded the republic. Between 1963 and 1992, Raila Odinga held no elective post in Kenya. Those where a whole 29 years, ever wondered who was the MP of Kibera? Ever wondered who was the President(s) of Kenya? Mayor(s) of Nairobi?
Between 1992 and 2013, some 21 years, Raila Odinga has been the leader of Kibera. Of the 21 years, it was only between 2003-2013 that Odinga rose to a serious position of power, and, stayed long enough to finally shape policy around and about Kibera.
Fact is, Kibera became an ”issue” in the last 21 years. And when it became an issue, everyone, every important world actor, both persons and institutions, have been in Kibera. World Bank, UN, AU, IMF, name it, all have been in Kibera.
So when you come to Kibera in 2014 and claim to have ‘discovered’ its filth and joblessness, its open sewers and plastic bags, you remind us of the colonialists who ‘discovered’ everything in Africa, including Nam Lolwe, and christened it Lake Victoria, and fell over themselves in London and Berlin, toasting vodka and idiotically fucking themselves up that they were the first to be in Africa.
When Raila Odinga became MP of Lang’ata in 1992, a time when ‘development’ was a ‘favour’ from government, he started the long task of ‘rethinking Kibera slums’.
As an opposition MP, and a front yard agitator for reforms, he started making contacts with the important world that Kibera needed. They say so much but few can tell you how the UN-Habitat came to identify Kibera as a candidate for slum upgrade programme. They say so much but few can remember the role of Dr. Ann Tibaijuka played in making the upgrade programmes a reality. Thats understandable, because, really, most of them ‘discovered’ Kibera around the same time Waiguru ‘discovered’ it – a few months ago.
Now, we are not opposed to these jonny-come-late folks developing Kibera by cleaning it up and blocking its open sewer; what we oppose, and forcefully so, is the blatant revisionism that’s accompanying it.
All along, some of these folks were the greatest stumbling blocks to improving the conditions of people of Kibera. If it was not deep budgetary cuts, it was slow release of funds meant for various projects in the slums.
In the last 21 years when real work started on Kibera, close to 7 years have been wasted on court cases by agents of the same obstructionists! More years have been wasted on funds absence arising from blatant sabotage. Even now, someone – a slumlord – is in court seeking orders to stop construction of business stalls which were part of the slum upgrade project.
This we must remember: There are those who lived in shacks who already benefited from the slum upgrade project. Several phases of the slum upgrade project were done and dusted. The phases going on now are as a result of the work done for over two decades.
Sadly, it is this reality that some folks want to wipe away.
If you want to know the sentiments of people of Kibera hold on their former MP, go to Kibera. The romanticized version of Kibera that’s being generated from Jubilee government PR and propagated by its media outlets is just that – a romanticized version. The real Kibera is work in progress.
And we intend to work so hard to ensure Kibera remains safe in the hands of those who didn’t discover it in 2014. To ensure these new colonial folks from Nairobi CBD don’t partition it as Otto Von Bismarck and his friends did to Africa in the 1880s.
Who ‘discovered’ Kibera in 2014? LOL!