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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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4.0 The Evolution of Slums in Kenya


The process of urbanization in Kenya is still an evolving phenomenon. However, it has proceeded at a tremendous pace over the past four decades, especially after political independence in the early 1960s. In 1962, for example, only one out of every 12 Kenyans lived in urban centers. By 1999, the proportion of the urban population had increased to 34.5 percent, affirming that one out of every three Kenyans currently lives in urban areas. Moreover, this percentage is expected to increase to 50 per cent by the year 2015. It is also noteworthy that during the 1989-1999 inter-censual periods, the country’s urban population has more than doubled by increasing from 3.88 million to 9.90 million, representing an increase of 155 percent. Over the same period, the number of urban centers has also risen from 139 to 194 representing a 40 percent increase (GoK, 2002).32

According to UNHABITAT (2010: 8), Nairobi has experienced an annual growth rate of four per cent in the period between 2000 and 2005 which was largely due to natural demographic growth rather than rural-urban migration. Granted that urbanization will proceed at the same rate, good governance and urban management will become more critical and complex as social issues associated with poverty are set to escalate. If unchecked, politics of exclusion is likely to result in more and more urban violence and crime. This is because although the economy continues to register a positive growth rate, the effects are not felt across board by way...

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