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There’s more to Kibra than what you already know

By James Wanzala | November 9th 2019 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

There’s more to Kibra than what you already know. [Photo: Courtesy]

Kibra, the largest slums in Nairobi, often conjures a negative image in many people’s minds.

The negative image is displayed in terms of poor roads, housing, drainage with overflowing sewage, ‘flying toilets’, insecurity, among other social ills.

Kibra constituency constitutes adjoining estates like Woodley, Ayany, Langata and Karanja. The constituency was created prior to the 2013 General Election; initially, it was in Langata constituency.

Kibra the slum occupies 12.1km, starting at DC grounds along Mugo Kibiru Road and ends at Stage 42 towards Jamuhuri grounds in Dagoreti Constituency. It has five wards of Sarang’ombe, Woodley/Kenyatta Golf Course, Makina, Laini Saba and Lindi.

Yesterday after the win by Imran Okoth, brother to the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth, the slum was nicknamed ‘Bedroom’. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga likened the constituency to his ‘bedroom’, saying no party should compete with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in the area.

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Unflattering tag

Along the chaotic Mugo Kibiru Road is a noisy and congested affair as matatus, boda bodas and tuk tuks hoot while dropping and picking passengers.

The slum bustles with people from various ethnic communities, with Luos, being the majority followed by Luhyas and Kikuyus. You will also find Nubians and Kisiis here. Nubians are said to be among the first people to settle in Kibra.

Most residents operate small businesses and some can be found selling vegetables and fish, while others run grocery shops.

Others choose to operate hotels and cyber cafes, while some, mostly youths walk to Industrial Area and neigbouring estates to look for casual jobs.

Yet there is more going on about this area that has over the years fought its unflattering tag - more to write home about and not the ‘obvious’ mud-walled and iron-roofed shanties.

Estates like Karanja and Olympic surround the slum, and the National Housing Corporation has just finished constructing one to three-bedroom flats called Olympic View Kibera that are ready for sale.

The constituency now enjoys a number of infrastructural facilities thanks to the late MP’s efforts, and non-governmental organisations like Shofco, which operate in the expansive slum.

“We have schools and several hospitals including maternity homes; we enjoy street lights and good roads. We are not poor as many people know or have known us,” says Mary Atieno, a resident from Katwekera area.

She adds: “We have people with cars parked at several grounds in the constituency, they just come to the slum to sleep.”

She challenges the new MP-elect to help youths who are jobless to get jobs and offer women small loans to start businesses.

Collins Wachie, another local mourns low education standards. “Transition poor from primary to secondary school is poor due to poverty. Many youths are forced to drop out of school,” he says.

A walk along Olympic Road leads one to the historical Kamukunji Grounds, famous with political rallies.

Various groups in celebratory mood, some adorned with orange T-shirts, can be seen discussing Imran’s win.

Next to the grounds is Kibera Town Centre, a project that was established by Human Needs Project (HNP) in 2014 by Danish Actor Connie Nielsen.

It is a gathering place for residents: Here, they can access clean water at a small fee, which they use for domestic purposes.

But what truly adds character to this area must be the smoky chang’aa and busaa dens that do booming business as music blasts from them, filling the air as locals go about their day. Indeed, power cables hang precariously on the shanties roofs, and it is many a people’s hope that this picture will soon transform.

The railway line also passes here and walking along it towards Laini Saba area gives one a panoramic view of the slum’s Kisumu Ndogo area.

As the locals bask in the glory of having a new MP, the youthful leader must note that his in-tray is already full.

Kibra Imran Okoth ODM
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