Why Anne Waiguru’s Kibera Slum Upgrade Initiative is a Fake Jubilee Propaganda Ploy
Members of The National Party (TNA) under Jubilee coalition think it is politically sexy to continually attack former Prime Minister Raila Odinga whenever he opposes them on politically-incorrect decisions, such as refusing to pay teachers their new salary increase awarded by the Supreme Court, and not suspending the embattled Devolution Cabinet Secretary (CS) Anne Waiguru, for the loss of Ksh791 million through fraudulent deals. President Uhuru Kenyatta had earlier this year suspended five CSs whose dockets were linked to corrupt deals.
Anne Waiguru is perceived as Uhuru’s favorite CS and the rumor mills allegedly link them romantically. Besides that, Waiguru is spearheading the Kibera Slum Upgrade Initiative with the National Youth Service (NYS), which includes “construction of toilets, showers and gabions as well as cleaning up sewers” according to the NYS website. Jubilee has therefore seen it fit to use this initiative to attack Raila for not improving the livelihoods of his former constituents in Kibera (now Kibra) which is the largest informal settlement in Kenya, when he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Langata Constituency.
Not to be seen as holding brief for Raila, he first became MP for Langata under the Ford-Kenya Party in 1992 after Kenya’s first multiparty elections. In 1997 he was re-elected under the National Democratic Party (NDP), while in 2002, he was in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He was elected again in 2007 until 2013, when he opted for the presidency. However, under the current constitution, a presidential candidate cannot be a parliamentarian. Raila Odinga was an Opposition MP from 1997-2001 when he got into a political agreement with then-Dictator Moi. NDP was therefore merged with Moi’s Kenya African National Union (KANU) party. Moi then appointed Raila as Energy Minister in June 2001. Under Moi’s dictatorship, Opposition MPs had no access to government resources and could therefore not improve the wellbeing of their constituents.
A 2014 report by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) on a survey of slums in Nairobi indicates that around 60-70% of Nairobi residents live in slums (p. xvii). Senator Beth Mugo (Uhuru’s cousin) was MP for Dagoretti Constituency in Nairobi from 1997 to 2007, and was also an Assistant Minister and Minister. Ironically, many of the Kawangware slum residents who gave her votes still live in extreme poverty, yet she is now very vocal against Raila in defense of Waiguru. Further, there are other slums in Nairobi yet nobody talks about them. In Kiambu County, which is home to tycoons like the Kenyattas, Koinanges, Njonjos and Karumes, thousands of Kikuyu people live in Githogoro slums. A survey by the Kiambu County Red Cross found that 53% live below the poverty line. (Standard newspaper July 9, 2013)
Slum upgrading program
In her book, Civil Society in Africa: The Role of Catholic Parish in a Kenyan Slum, Christine Bodewes (2013) dedicates Chapter Five to SLUM UPGRADING, which provides a very sound background to the process which did not feature Waiguru. “In January 2003 the Kenyan government and UN-Habitat announced their decision to implement a joint slum upgrading project in the village of Soweto in Kibera” (p. 135). “In November 2000, just months after being appointed the new executive director of UN-Habitat, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka offered to spearhead a slum upgrading program in Kenya as a gesture of good will to President Moi for hosting the headquarters of UN-Habitat in Nairobi. Officials at UN-Habitat created a committee that short-listed and ranked nine slum settlements for the upgrade; the top-ranked slum was Huruma, a small settlement of 6,500 where Pamoja Trust had already started an upgrading project. The next ranked slum was the village of Soweto located in Kibera, home to approximately 60,000 people. Even though Soweto was ranked lower, President Moi insisted that the upgrade take place there. In Kibera, it was widely believed that the upgrade was a political reward for Raila Odinga, the area MP and recent defector to the KANU party, who had promised Moi political support from his large Luo voting bloc in the upcoming 2002 elections” (p. 136). “On January 15, 2003, Raila Odinga and Anna Tibaijuka signed a memorandum of understanding that created the Kenya Slum Upgrading Program (KENSUP) to implement the Soweto upgrade” (p. 137).
Unfortunately, due to personal interest from people who have for many years exploited the poor Kibera residents by charging them rent, court injunctions (stopping all demolitions) have stalled the initial Kibera slum upgrading program since 2009. What Waiguru is doing is just a scratch on the surface because there are powerful people in Kenya (mostly the Kikuyu), who for political and monetary interest, must keep the slum residents poor. Members of the Nubian community who were initially settled in the area by the British colonists, fear they will not get title deeds to own community land which they have fought for since 1997. “The Nubian community is now afraid that the government has shelved plans to issue them a title for “their land” as it has already gained considerable political mileage in the opposition stronghold.” (Nation newspaper June 13, 2015).
In February 2003 when Raila announced that Soweto residents would be moved temporarily to Athi River during the planned upgrade, there was panic among the owners of structures and small businesses, who felt they would lose their livelihoods when they returned. “Raila’s announcement sent shockwaves of fea and anxiety among the structure owners and confirmed suspicions among many Kikuyu that the upgrade was a political maneuver to permanently remove them from Kibera. Athi River was a financially depressed town where job opportunities were scarce. Structure owners complained that if they were forced to move far away to a place with very few customers, it would be nearly impossible to raise sufficient funds to finance their move back to Kibera. Even if they were able to return, their houses and businesses would already be occupied by Luo tenants brought by Raila.” (Bodewes, 2013, p. 140)
Many slum dwellers in Kibra do not have steady sources of income to pay the required rent of US$10 per month in the new flats. According to journalist Abby Higgins: “Nairobi’s middle class swooped in, searching for affordable housing in a city with skyrocketing rents. Many secured apartments in the new buildings through the informal systems of bribery that dictates a great deal of life in Kenya. And many Kibera residents who were given apartments through the programme saw a business opportunity and rented their flats to middle class tenants at four and five times the subsidised rate. Then they moved back to the slum with extra money in their pocket.” (one.org, 2013). Waiguru and her team are in this for political mileage since the high rate of corruption in her Devolution ministry and the NYS cannot sustain the Kibera slum upgrading initiative.