Waititu and Sonko had the support of majority of the Poor and might win March

One of the first things you notice when you go to a slum in Nairobi is the number of services on offer that are unknown elsewhere in the city.

Phone charging: Sh10. That is because virtually all the adults in the informal settlements have mobile phones but the majority have no electricity connection.
Water: Sh20 per container. Most houses do not have water connections. According to UN-Habitat, about 65 per cent of Nairobians live in slums. Only 22 per cent of them have water connections. Compare that with the higher income groups (11-12 per cent of the population) who consume 30 per cent of the city’s water.
Cooking githeri, Sh15; ugali, beans, ndengu, ngwachi, Sh10; Waru, heating water for bathing, Sh10.
Most heads of households in the slums calculate that buying kerosene at Sh87 to cook at home does not make economic sense when they earn about Sh300 gross per day. So they pay Sh15 to some merchant to do the cooking for them. More to the point, there was this huge poster that greeted the Sunday Nationteam when we went on a reporting trip to Mukuru kwa Njenga last year:
“All Land Grabbers, Come Baby Come,” and “Mukuru Ndio Ocha (rural home), “We have nowhere else to go, Mukuru is not for Sale.”
Those banner signs were put up by an organisation called Muungano wa Wanavijiji which has been working for several years to prevent grabbers from taking the land in Mukuru which is home to hundreds of thousands of city residents.
The group has moved to court and stopped many characters that were allocated prime plots in the slums in the 1980s from carrying out eviction orders.
But the resistance to those evictions has also taken a political character. And, after a week in the slums, we came back aware of the depth of popularity of Mike Sonko and Ferdinand “Clifford” Waititu.
It was Waititu and Sonko who would be on the ground within minutes every time a demolition squad arrived in the service of grabbers seeking to flatten shacks which inconveniently sit on land worth of millions of shillings near the Industrial Area.
Many residents of Mukuru and other slums in the capital are completely alienated from the government. They are not idlers. Many are welders, masons, informal sector teachers, vegetable vendors whose monthly income falls below Sh10,000.
The slums are the only place they can afford to live. But the city council and the government pretend they do not exist. Basic services such as water and sewerage are absent.
Populist politicians and Western governments and agencies have filled this void. When it is not Sonko delivering large water tanks in the slums, you will see embarrassing signs like one we spotted: “This public toilet was funded by the World Bank.” In this situation, it is easy to explain the popularity of the likes of Waititu.
Jimnah Mbaru would make a far better Nairobi governor for everyone. His plan to raise a bond to build 500,000 cheap housing units, for example, would have been a good first step to get rid of slums. My vote will now switch to Evans Kidero.
But I understand where the massive support for Waititu and Sonko springs from. It can be summarised in the slogan that the populist leader of Venezuela Hugo Chavez uses to win elections despite the wishes of the middle class and better off Venezuelans. Somos la mayoría “We (the poor) are the majority.”
Anyone taking part in future primaries will remember this quote commonly attributed to Stalin: “It’s not the people who vote that count. It’s the people who count the votes.”

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