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Politics and Slum Upgrading in Kenya

A Case Study on the Influence of Politics on Slum Upgrading in Kibera


George M. Kiyu

Why was the slum upgrading project in Kibera, Kenya, facing resistance? This study uses both qualitative and quantitative methods in data collection to reveal that politics revolving around the interests of local politicians, slum dwellers and business operators as well as external players such as NGOs hamper successful implementation of the slum upgrading project Kenya Slum Upgrading Program in Kibera. The key obstacles include poverty, corruption, tribalism, political interpretation of the project aims, bureaucracy, slum oriented businesses (kadogo economy) as well as NGO activity and youth unemployment.
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1.0 Introduction

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Barely three years after the first batch of slum dwellers, mainly drawn from Soweto East Village of Kibera, moved into the new houses at the decanting site in Langata, they started moving out for various reasons ranging from rent arrears to flouting of the code of conduct for occupancy of the new houses (The Standard, 28th May 2011). This is in total contrast to the excitement of relocating into the clean houses with a pleasant environment that characterized the relocation into 600 houses in the first phase of the Kibera slum upgrading project. This is even more surprising because rent for the new houses is only 1,000 Kenya shillings inclusive of electricity, water and sanitation. In comparison the slum hovels are rented at a minimum of 1,200 Kenya shillings and are usually typified by lack of electricity, running water and the (in)famous flying toilets.1

Improved housing and environmental management are two sides of the same coin as illustrated in the eyesore that is Kibera whereby provision of basic amenities like water and sanitation as well as garbage collection is rendered impossible due to congestion and lack of access roads. Dumping of wastes including human excrement in any available open space is commonplace. This is the rationale for the Kenya Slum Upgrading Program (KENSUP) besides the social and security benefits accruing from a well managed and permeable neighborhood that is easy to police. Despite these benefits to both the government and the citizens, the project appears...

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