Joy as 691 Kibera slum residents receive keys to new houses

Frashia Wanjiku Kinga displays keys to her new house at her new home in Kibera Soweto East Zone ‘A’. [Photo: Elvis Ogina/Standard]

There was joy and jostling as 691 tenants transited from their hovels in Kibera to posh houses in an adjacent estate.

Utmost care had been taken with the names and numbers inscribed on key holders with keys to the new houses but the pushing continued during the allocations, probably because many feared that after all the waiting, they would still miss out.

It was a momentous occasion - just like in the film "12 Years a Slave" featuring Kenyan-born Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong'o, freedom had come at long last for the residents who have now graduated from flying to flushing toilets.

It appeared too good to be true for Christopher Munjogu, 62, who has been dreaming about the transition for a long time.

From his tiny mud-walled room in Soweto, which also served as a mini-shop from which he interacted with customers through a miniature opening, he would stare into 'Canaan', the place he yearned to be.

For this small space, Mr Munjogu has been paying Sh2,500 per month in rent. He also had to cough up Sh300 for electricity and spend an additional Sh3,000 on water. He lives alone, except when his wife visits from Makueni.

Munjogu's home for 20 years is located next to a stream of running sewage.

This contrasted sharply with his new house in the 'Promised Land' which has a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms and a balcony from which he can see the slum where he has spent two decades.

When Munjogu climbed the three floors of Block G1 and finally went to his unit, house number 6, he lingered at the entrance and admired the door and bell. He smiled as he lovingly ran his hand over the shiny kitchen sink.

Master bedroom

The old man then purposefully strode into what he determined to be his master bedroom, which was twice as big as his room in Soweto. It is from this room that he connected to the balcony where he sighed as he espied a sea of humanity milling around his former home.

He then declared, with a beaming smile: "I am now home... I am now going to call my four children to come and live with me. This is one of the happiest days of my life that calls for a change of lifestyle. But I have not yet decided when I will be moving in," he said.

According to the bylaws of the newly baptised Canaan estate, domestication of animals is not allowed, which gives Munjogu the tough task of disposing of his ducks.

His good cheer was shared by his neighbour Roseline Khasoa who, amid smiles, simply stated, "God is good. This is simply a miracle."

Her worn-out black sandals spoke volumes of the struggles she has undergone to fend for her family.

Benson Makenzi, 39, who benefited from a one-bedroom unit, said water and sanitation were the biggest nightmares, especially because he operated a hotel.

Fetch water

"I buy water for Sh5 per 20-litre jerrican but I still have to pay Sh40 to the person I am sending to fetch the water," said the father of two who will be moving into his new home on Friday.

Through the Sh2.9 billion slum upgrading programme, Ms Khasoa now owns a self-contained three-room house (two bedrooms) and she will be required to pay Sh6,000 monthly to service the mortgage.

Khasoa runs a food kiosk just outside the gate of the new estate.

"I am moving in on Saturday night. We who come from Western (region) never move out in broad daylight," she said with a burst of laughter.

A three-bedroom house costs Sh1.35 million, a two-bedroom Sh1 million and a business stall Sh326,000, all to be paid at the same interest rate over a period of 25 years.

The beneficiaries include 692 families who were allocated one and two bedroom units through a ballot system that was conducted by the Kenya National Human Rights Commission in March following a court order.

Of the beneficiaries, 34 per cent are women, with two per cent of the remainder being people living with disabilities and one per cent being the elderly.

The oldest beneficiary is 85 years old while the youngest is 26.