From Kibera slums to ‘Canaan’ -slum-upgrading programme
NAIROBI, 18 September 2009 (IRIN) – At least 1,300 slum dwellers from Kibera – Nairobi’s largest informal urban settlement – have been moved to new blocks of flats under a slum-upgrading programme.
“I can’t believe I have left Kibera for good! My new home is so clean, we have a toilet inside the house; it is a dream come true,” Pius Okello, 46, father of six, said.
Okello, who had lived in Kibera’s Soweto East zone for 10 years, was one of those who moved on 16 September. The government provided trucks and workers to help the residents settle into their new homes, which they have dubbed `Canaan’, the Promised Land.
Kibera is one of the largest informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UN-HABITAT, estimates of its population range from 500,000 to 800,000, with densities of over 3,000 people per hectare – one of the most densely populated informal settlements in the world.
The monthly rent for a room in the new flats, about a kilometre from Kibera, is Ksh 500 (US$7) and tenants pay an additional Ksh300 ($4) for electricity and Ksh200 ($2.5) for water. The kitchen, toilet and bathrooms are shared but if a family takes three rooms, they get exclusive use of these facilities.
“I took three rooms because I have six children and I take care of four other children of my dead brother when schools close; at least now my wife and I have our privacy and the children have a bedroom for the first time,” Okello said.
“The only problem is that I feel that water and electricity charges are high because they are charged per room; I should be charged a single fee for the whole house.”
The ongoing $300,000 Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) was mooted in 2000, and jointly funded by the government, HABITAT and the World Bank Cities Alliance.
Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister and member of parliament for Langata, in which Kibera falls, participated in moving the slum dwellers to their new homes.
“Absence of decent housing means abundance of other problems,” he said in an address to the residents. “Today, we take the first step towards meeting the basic needs and rights of slum dwellers and saying No to slum related problems. This is an initial step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”
Nairobi has some of the most dense, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world, according to HABITAT, with almost half of the city’s population living in over 100 slums and squatter settlements.
“The objective of the programme is to improve the overall livelihoods of people living and working in slums through targeted interventions to address shelter, infrastructure services, land tenure and employment issues, as well as the impact of HIV/AIDS in slum settlements,” according to HABITAT.
KENYA: Tens of thousands facing acute food shortage
|Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN|
|Tens of thousands of people are facing food scarcity in Kenya’s north Rift|
Tens of thousands of people are facing food scarcity in the areas of Baringo and East Pokot in Kenya’s north Rift, a humanitarian official said.
“There is an acute food shortage and the situation has been rated as alarming,” Anthony Mwangi, public relations manager with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), said.
At least 64,000 people were affected in East Pokot and another 32,000 in Baringo.
Mwangi said the food scarcity was attributed to poor rainfall and drought, which had led to crop failure. High food prices had exacerbated the situation.
In addition, prolonged drought was contributing to environmental degradation, he said.
Absenteeism in schools had also been reported, with at least 5 percent of children missing school. “They are staying behind to support their parents,” he said.
Livestock health has been affected due to a lack of pasture and water. The two areas have a large pastoralist population.
“The livestock are in poor condition and are fetching low prices in the markets,” said Mwangi. Milk production had also fallen.
He said some of the affected population was feeding on wild fruits and rodents to cope with the food shortage.
The worst-affected areas include the localities of Sacho, Margat, Makutani, Tenges, Koloo, Tangul bei and Nginyang.
The KRCS has launched relief food aid distribution targeting at least 68,000 people in the affected areas. So far, the KRCS had distributed 1,246 tonnes of assorted food stuff, including 1,152 tonnes of cereal, Mwangi said.
Film of Zimbabwe ‘vote-rigging’
“New evidence of vote-rigging in last month’s presidential election in Zimbabwe has emerged in the form of a secret film made by a prison guard. The guard, Shepherd Yuda, filmed the vote-rigging at his jail in a production for Guardian Films.
Prison officers, including Mr Yuda, who has now fled Zimbabwe, were forced to vote for President Robert Mugabe by superior officers. The officers organised a postal ballot and stood over them as they cast votes.
Mr Yuda decided to speak out after the murder of his uncle, an opposition activist, two months ago. He knew he and his family would have to leave Zimbabwe as a result.
“This election: I have never seen that type of violence,” he says in the film. “The impact has left a lot of orphans; it has left a lot of people displaced. You cannot expect that from your government.”
He secretly filmed a war veteran, Superintendent Shambira, watching as prison officers voted. Supt Shambira ensured they marked their ballots for Robert Mugabe, and not the opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai. Supt Shambira then logged each vote against an identification number. There was no secrecy.
All those voting knew Supt Shambira had the power to condemn them as MDC supporters. Mr Yuda says he had no choice but to vote for Robert Mugabe. Mr Yuda also spoke to voters on the streets of Harare.
“They’re standing right in front of you when you cast your vote,” one voter told Mr Yuda. “They watch.” The voter went on: “Shambira definitely sees you vote – there’s no way of hiding it. I was thinking I could vote when he wasn’t looking, but he was watching like a hawk.”
Among the prisoners is Tendai Biti, a prominent opposition MP and human-rights lawyer. Mr Yuda filmed him having his leg-irons removed for a court hearing. Mr Biti, who is awaiting trial on treason charges, was released on bail, but could still face execution.
“You know, I was so touched: for a man of his status to be reduced to such levels, to be put in a criminal institution,” Mr Yuda says in the film. “It’s very, very sad.”
Mr Yuda also captured conversations between prison guards in the run-up to the 27 June run-off election, as tension was increasing.
“In my area, there’s a lot of tension,” one guard tells him. “Zanu-PF (ruling party) thugs came to my house as soon as I left for work today. They abducted my wife. They took her to the base.”
These “bases” are springing up in private houses all over Harare. Previously they were a feature of rural Zimbabwe; now they have reached the capital. Ordinary people are abducted and compelled to attend Zanu-PF re-education rallies.
“I am forced to go and guard these bases all through the night, after my shift here,” another prison officer says. “They cordon off the whole street: it becomes a no-go area. These people are killers, the thugs that Zanu-PF are using.”
And another guard says the rest of the world should do more to help Zimbabwe.
“It’s in the hands of the international community now,” he says. “[South African President] Thabo Mbeki has betrayed us. He didn’t want to come down hard on Mugabe. Instead, he kept going on and on about pan-Africanism.”
On election day itself, Mr Yuda films a woman who is so fearful that she has pretended to have voted. She colours her little finger with a pink marker, hoping to simulate the ink used to identify those who have already cast their ballots.
The day after Robert Mugabe’s election, Shepherd Yuda and his family began packing, preparing to leave Zimbabwe. Their lives would have been in danger if they had stayed. They can only begin to think about returning once Mr Mugabe has gone.”