Asha Jaffar is a poet, writer, activist and friend with whom I’ve had the privilege of working with for a little over a year now. I correct her grammar and help shape some of her stories, while she allows me to see parts of Kenya through her eyes.
She sent me a piece this week for revisions and immediately I wanted to share it with you. My first thought was, wow–how lucky are we to live in a country/city/town whose government (far more often than not) has our backs.
As you read her story, perhaps, like me, you’ll be reminded of the many things you take for granted. Since social media has brought us all closer together as a global community, I thought sharing Asha’s story would be a great way to connect with a part of the world that I imagine wouldn’t otherwise fall on our radar.
Although our help may be limited, our compassion and empathy can stretch beyond borders. Sharing her words is a great opportunity to elevate the voices of Kibera to allow them to reach the right ears, and hopefully evoke change.
Here’s Asha’s story:
They Came For Us
It has always been like this.
I can’t remember when it started, but it’s been going on far too long, and I’m tired of it. It’s exhausting having your homes destroyed in the name of development. I can’t express how tiring. Development, injustice and the courts are the three things here. These are the things Kenya needs to redefine. Or, at least, try to better understand.
We live in an eight-by-eight room with more than ten families, no privacy, sleeping in turns. Men sleep in the day and women sleep at night so as to protect the women against anything that might happen, including rape. Food has become a luxury, and sleeping for the hours you want is no longer an option.
Let’s start from the beginning.
The beginning, as always, is a question: Why are projects passed through Kibera without ever benefiting Kibera? The railway, the southern bypass – these passed through us [residents of Kibera], yet we have received no benefits from these programs. Our homes have been destroyed. Our roads are still terrible. Our schools and hospitals are struggling. This is the development I’m waiting to hear about.
Instead they brought more bulldozers.
I saw it all.
On the morning of 8th September 2014, we got a call from one of the women living around the Railway area-42. She told us that houses were being demolished. They did not even give people time to salvage their belongings.
Construction company H-Young was contracted by Kenya Railways to demolish houses. This was stopped after residents went to court, buying time until the case is heard on 14th October 2014.
This didn’t stop H-Young, however, as they tried to demolish more houses in August.
The community resisted them and they eventually left. In September, though, hired goons came and demolished the houses. H-Young has not admitted that they were behind the recent demolitions, but they haven’t denied it either. We strongly suspect it was them.
Daniel Nguka, one of the people responsible for the demolition, was arrested after we made a lot of noise on Twitter last week. He was charged with robbery and with violence, but was later released on bond. Who does Daniel represent? Who is he working for? Why did he take charge in demolishing houses?
“I was battered and harassed. I am pregnant but they did not have any mercy. They stepped on my stomach and currently I don’t know if I might have complications regarding my pregnancy.” -Kiberan victim
11,000 families are to be moved by Kenya Railways starting this September, from Kibera and Mukuru. How can Kenya Railways go against a court order? How can they go against the agreements they made with the people living along the railways regarding compensation? More importantly, how can they do all this without consequence?
We took to Twitter to tell our story (under the hashtag #kiberademolitions) because that was the only way we thought the world would listen. It worked.
We got our M.P., Ken Okoth, to call on Kenya Railways and stop the demolitions. After countless tweets and texts, Kilimani police station sent 9 policemen who arrested the people who were demolishing those houses. They were charged then released on bail. We are now trying to get our M.P. to table this issue in parliament.
“The corporation received a Sh 3.9 billion ($45 million) loan from the World Bank for constructing alternative housing units for affected families.” – Business Daily
Many of the families I spoke to had their names removed from the list of the affected persons and were calling upon the M.P. to ask the World Bank to provide the enumeration list that was done in 2010. They were also asking for a new transparent enumeration process.
The World Bank has rules and regulations on how to deal with people. Every single thing we have seen here breaks those rules. Compensation was agreed upon – it didn’t happen. Still, the World Bank backs this project.
“It has taken a long time for the Kenya Railway Corporation and Pamoja Trust to implement the relocation project of the people living and doing businesses along the railway line in Kibera, the process involved a very high level of consultations with all the stake holders involved.
The new buildings built around Jamhuri to accommodate the replaced individuals better referred to as Project Affected Persons (PAPS) has raised more heat, Kibera residents are feeling short-changed since most of what they see are not as per the agreement in the Relocation Action Plan Document (RAP) so they have convened 4 meetings to engage the Pamoja Trust and Kenya Railway.” -Voice of Kibera
Kenya Railways never attended the aforementioned meeting, or any other for that matter. We have tried to meet with them repeatedly, and they have postponed the meeting for the fourth time now.
This campaign, like the issue, is on-going. We are not done. We are currently fundraising for the ten families affected. We are still looking to meet Kenya Railways. We will still go to court.
It’s always been like this.
But, it needs to stop.
I leave you with this: Read more stories. Not just for perspective, for recognition. I see you. I hear you. I honor you.
*Asha on Twitter @AshaJaffar
*Kibera is located in Nairobi