01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Quick update and Future of the slums? 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Quick update and Future of the slums?

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I am no longer ‘pimping’ for the cook who was coming once a week because a friend of mine announced that she has taken him on full time. In fact, he’s going to her 3 days a week and to her friend for the other 3 days/week. My first reaction was ‘good for Philip, he’s now employed full time’, then; ‘what a relief not having to offer his services around every week to make sure he’s getting enough income’ to; ‘what a bore, I am now disgruntled, making bolognaise sauces and home made soups when there are loads of other things I’d rather be doing’. A friend asked if I was cross that he had been ‘stolen’? Now whilst he was never actually ‘mine’, I will wait and see on that one. Well good luck to him and I hope it all works out. In the meantime, back to the grindstone or rather the cooker/hob for me.

Today I met up with our ex-askari who needed a cash hand out for routine medical tests. Thank goodness he and his wife are in good health for now. He offered (again) for us to visit his home in Kibera and I think we will steel ourselves and go. It has to be a Sunday as that’s his day off. It will be tricky as we’ll need to get someone to come in specially to look after the kids on our ‘staff free’ day. Our ex askari is still active in the HIV awareness programmes operating out of Kibera and both he and his wife are trained as counsellors. He said he recently met an Italian lady from an NGO and he’s been asked to email his CV in the hopes of her finding him a job within the organisation she runs. He’s naming us as references. I hope it works out.

I’ve been thinking about the slums a lot lately, with all the news stories of police raids seeking out Mungiki members there and disasters in the news etc. I also just re-watched the April 2006 Channel 4 documentary by Aidan Hartley for ‘Unreported World’, about the rubbish dumps and slums in Nairobi. His angle was that the disenfranchised youth living in the slums are massing together, becoming armed and will soon be a force to be reckoned with for the Mercedes driving, cash rich MPs who are still pocketing so much aid money and operating on an ‘every man for himself’ style of governing. His prophecy seems to be coming true and I wondered why MPs and those in power do nothing about the living appalling conditions and lack of rights of those in the slums. Then it struck me that perhaps the people in government who have come from a very rural or lowly backgrounds might seriously see the situation as really, honestly ‘not that bad’.

From a Western perspective lack of proper sanitation, flying toilets, no running water, little electricity, poorly clothed children, makeshift homes rather than bricks and mortar, does make a startling and scandalous picture, but for many in the Kenyan countryside similar conditions are a fact of life and have been for years. Young people leave the country and migrate to town in order to escape arranged marriages and a future of solitary subsistence farming or livestock tending. There is little money in the countryside and times are hard. In town it’s more cosmopolitan and cool with more job prospects too (albeit slim pickings). It’s possible to buy a (second hand) Tommy Hilfiger shirt and rip off designer shades and hang out with people your own age, even if you do have to put up with overcrowded slums and poor living conditions.

It will be interesting to see how this situation develops. There have been attempts to return unemployed squatters to parts of the country from whence they came, but obviously this is not a realistic solution. The problem of the slums in urban Victorian England was dealt with by proper planning and Government intervention. I hope that the right steps by those in charge will finally be taken here. We will have to see.

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