The wretched of the earth real victims in Arboretum lockout

By Waikwa Wanyoike

Kenya: I read your piece last week about the introduction of fees to the Nairobi Arboretum. I could not agree more. When I heard that they would start charging fees to access the park, I went there and met with the park warden, Salome Angaine.

She was very courteous and explained how she was getting disheartened every day when groups that have been using the park went to her to enquire about the new charges and almost all left with the words that they would be unable to use the park in future.

These ranged from relatively well to do women who went there for yoga, to young artists who used the park for all manner of ways.

I live in Kilimani area and what really attracts me to the arboretum is how the space is able to pull a large spectrum of society, from the richest to the poorest. It is one space where Kenyans really co-exist.

What really touched me is Angaine’s narration that the people she was worried about the most are the ones who use the park daily as a thoroughfare to Riverside and Westlands, most of them casual labourers.

She told me that she had discreetly walked with one group. She overheard them say they would have to be starting slightly earlier from Kibera to ensure that they made it to work in time using the longer route.

A sad reminder that ours is a society that has no place for the poor, and how we victimise them every day, in every way.