Kenyan railway will destroy the slums

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Kenyan railway will destroy the slums

By Maina Waruru

15-01-20-kibera-590.jpg

Kibera slum in Nairobi. (khym54 under a Creative Commons Licence)

In 2003, Kenya’s government changed. Daniel Arap Moi had been leader for a long time. But Mwai Kibaki, educated at the London School of Economics, took over. Many Kenyans hoped for a lot of development and change.

That year, people said that Kenyans were the most optimistic people in the world. They were full of enthusiasm and hope. Kibaki, a famous economist, was going to change their country.

And Kibaki was good. He invested a lot in roads, railways, air, oil pipelines and sea ports. This would help development in all areas. And this development would help the people.

They opened new roads, railways and ports; and many Chinese bankers and contractors came. There were many Chinese coming across Africa, looking for new opportunities and resources.

One of the biggest plans was to build a 472-kilometre ‘Standard Gauge Railway’ (SGR), from Mombasa (on the Indian Ocean), to Nairobi, and then to Uganda and Rwanda. This followed the line of the old East African railway that the British colonial government built in 1901.

The project did not develop when Kibaki was leader. In 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta took over. He wanted to continue the railway project – it would cost $353-million. In 2014, China’s Exim bank gave the money and they started to build it.

All big developments across Africa bring suffering to people. This railway is the same. James Mwangi is one person who will suffer. He lives in Kibera, the biggest slum in Nairobi, and probably the biggest slum in Africa.

Mwangi lives in a very simple house with his wife and two children on the path of the railway, with 250,000 other poor people. 22 years ago, he started a scrap metal business there.

People who live in three slums, Kibera, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Mukuru Kwa Reuben, must move this year so they can build the railway. This new railway will bring more goods from the port of Mombasa to the cities of Nairobi, Kampala in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda – and to the towns in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has said that all structures, houses and business sheds on the path of the SGR, and all the people, will have to go. The contracting company, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBD) plan to complete it by 2018. In 2018, Kenyatta’s five-years as leader will end.

Also, the KRC has told the residents, some of the poorest in the country, that they will not get money in compensation because they are living there ‘illegally’ on government land.

They must start another life in another place. Some people have been here for more than 50 years.

The residents do not yet understand that they have to move. Houses in other areas of Nairobi are much more expensive. The monthly rent for an average one-bedroom apartment is $150; in the slums, they can rent a simple place for $37. And about half the people constructed their own simple place.

There was a government project to build proper houses for the people in the slums. But it is too slow. They finished the first 200 units seven years ago, but they gave many, illegally, to government officials and their friends. So the poor people of Nairobi’s slums stayed in the slums.

Most of the people work in city factories. They can walk to their work. But when they have to move, they will have to pay for the bus to work. They earn about $3 a day and they have families to support, so they don’t have enough money for the bus. People who have small businesses, like James Mwangi, will have to look for new work or a new place to run a business.

And there are reports that China will send about 5,000 workers to build the railway. They say the local people are not ‘skilled’ enough to do the work.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/majority/2015/01/20/kenya-rail-slums/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).