This post by our member Steve Banner, of Kibera News Network (originally posted on the Voice of Kibera) explains how rumours resulted in violence during the recent party candidate nominations in January. A distinct mistrust of official channels of information is evident: if no one knows what to believe, suspicion and anger are quick to arise. This is one reason that Map Kibera is working to build accurate and trusted local networks of information in Nairobi slums during the upcoming elections.
Destruction of Red Rose School, Kibera. Photo by Lee Ibrahim.
Kibera street political analysts, as I may call them, and rumour mongers, have a very thin line separating them if the happenings of the past few days is anything to go by.
After fierce campaigns on 6th and 7th January, the ODM nominations were to take place on 18th. The 18th came and people went to vote in one peace each confident that his or her candidate will clinch the party ticket.
After a full day of voting, rumours took over and went round on Friday 19th that the ODM Sarangombe county representative ticket had gone to Mr. Owino Ko’tieno, this was later to be confirmed by the returning officer at olympic primary school polling station.
The same rumours claimed that Mr. Amayo, a Kibra MP contestant had clinched the ODM ticket, hours later the same rumours reversed their claim that the confirmed winner was Mr. Ken Okoth. I never got to know how the confirmation came about and never bothered to ask since one didn’t actually need to ask, they would tell it to you anyway.
So I came to believe it when a friend told me that Mr. Ken Okoth had actually updated on social media that he had clinched the ODM ticket to run for Kibra MP.
It was at this point that the street political analysts of Kibera picked the story, and by saying street political analysts, I mean those individuals who stand by the roadside especially at newspapers vending points with a handful crowd around them, as they analyze the political situation of the moment. Try walking at olympic or kamkunji grounds, Kibera on a Sunday and you can’t miss them.
On this day, they took to analyze the possibility of Mr. Ken Okoth winning and how he had done it. According to one such analyst, Mr. Ken Okoth had only won in 2 polling stations and therefore could not be declared the winner. He argued that laini saba area residents had not been allowed to vote, and the area, according to him, was an Amayo stronghold.
As the rumour picked the story and went round with it, breaking it down in different versions, it seemed a group of youths decided to react to the rumour and marched to orange house in kilimani area, which houses ODM headquaters, to allegedly protest over why laini saba residents were denied a chance to participate in the nominations, where they were reported to have engaged in property destruction.
And despite the ODM electoral board announcing on a press conference that no certificate had been issued to any candidate yet, a rumour still went round that Mr. Owino Ko’tieno, who had been announced the winner of county rep. ODM ticket, had been denied the certificate, and, according to the rumour, given to Mr. Kajwang, who was also contesting for county representative ODM ticket in sarangombe. It’s believed that this could have been the reason for the rowdiness that followed thereafter that led to youths engaging in property destruction at Redrose school in olympic, a school that is believed to be owned by Mr. Ken Okoth, who, according to random sources in Kibera, was being accused of working to make sure Mr. Owino Kotieno did not have the certificate. There were several versions of this story depending on who you ask, and which side he/she supported and the mood on the ground. In one particular version, Mr. Ken Okoth is alleged to have been asked who he wanted to work with and mentioned Kajwang instead of Kotieno, but I could never tell who to believe among the several story tellers I listened to.
And even after ODM board made it clear that no certificate had been issued, the youths went ahead to lay barricades along Kibera drive near olympic stage.
Moments later, police from the general service unit were deployed to quell the lawlessness and violence. Running battles ensued, leaving scores of people injured among them 2 journalists from the mainstream media.
Having been the first organization to put the entire Kibera slums on the world map, Map Kibera Trust; an organization that seeks to be a hub where access to open information contributes to positive community transformation was on the road again to ensure that the maps that were produced reached the community which in-turn would put them to use.
To achieve this, the program coordinators met for the preparation of distributing the maps; there intention of meeting was to bring the attention of the three programs on how they will be working together towards achieving the objective of the exercise and to come up with relevant locations for maps distribution. It was there that they agreed that members from the 3 programs; Mapping, Voice of Kibera and Kibera News Network were to go to the field to distribute the maps which had been developed based on themes. Maps on Education, Security and Health are the themes that were distributed.
The aim of the exercise was to give back to the community through the high quality printed maps that contain the informational that came from them during the first phase of the mapping exercise.
For the 2 days that we were in the field, we were able to cover all the 13 villages; Gatwikera, Raila, Olympic, Soweto west&east, Kianda, Kambi muru, Kisumu ndogo, Lindi, Mashimoni, Makina, Silanga, and Laini Saba.
Positive Feedback From the Field.
As we visited different places, we collected feedback from the people we found so that we could ascertain how the maps will be put to good used.
The local administration appreciated our work and accepted to be interviewed i.e. Sarang’ombe and Laina Saba ward chiefs.
Most of the institutions accepted to use the map for positive transfiguration most of the institution wanted more than one map so they can use it for informational purposes as well as Education especially the Schools we visited.
We even had a chance to meet with D.O 1 (District Commissioner) who had a compliment for us saying that our map was outstanding compared to the one they had before.
For those who were not able to access our maps online were able to access them on hard-copy something that was important for us since it was now realized.
We ensured equal distribution of maps in at least all villages in Kibera.
Some of the Challenges.
Though most of the places we went to were very receptive, we experienced some hostility in a few areas where we were thought to be a different group out to just take advantage of the situations in Kibera by walking around to talk to people as we take photos to go and sell. After a few minutes of sharing our intentions with them, they understood us and we gave out the maps, something they congratulated us for showing a good example to organizations by sharing the findings of the work done with the community. We also found some schools that were to get maps already closed for holiday which means we will have to give them the maps when they resume school.
In general, the exercise was a success only for the schools that had already closed. Going forward, we need to print big and more visible maps a suggestion that came from one of the places we visited.
We hope that the maps distributed will not only be put to good use but also help Map Kibera Trust bond more with the community so that even as we get ready to cover the vents before, during and after the elections, we can work together to achieve optimum results and that Kibera and the other slums we are currently working with (Mathare and Mukuru) will never be the same again.
and if you’re curious, a little more detailed Report
Kepha Ngito is Executive Director of Map Kibera Trust. This post is his first in a series of personal reflections on his experiences with Map Kibera.
The Accra effect
Recently I attended the ON (Omidyar Network) -Baraza together with the African Leadership Network conference in Accra, Ghana. Both events happened one after the other at the same venue, the Movenpick Hotel. Irony is that I found peace of mind to write down these thoughts while in a 5-star hotel in Accra, Ghana, and not in a tin, stick and mud shack in the heart of Kibera, Mathare or Mukuru slums in Nairobi. These last 3 locations are normally my dwelling places, not just physical dwellings but psychological dwellings and lately, professional dwellings. I was only a visitor in Ghana, a country with a lot of history.
Being in Ghana or say, the comforts of the hotel ironically provided a certain ‘peace’ of mind and quiet – a rare luxury for most people living in slums — that enabled me to reflect enough to write this article. Even though I don’t compare myself to those in prison or exile, I understood why they write better and longer articles.
For nearly 10 months now, I have been working as the Executive Director at Map Kibera Trust. I am also one of the founding Trustees of the organization. A quick attention grabber would be that we worked with the community to make the first digital map of Kibera and ‘placed’ it on the Kenyan map after decades of its depiction as a forest on the country’s official map. We have since done the same for Mathare and Mukuru.
With a team of about 45 people (15 in each location), we are a group of people who believe that mapping is the first step to affirming that a people exist somewhere, even when they have been pushed to the periphery of mainstream development and tagged as ‘informal’ or depicted as a forest, a quarry site, a swamp, an electricity reserve or a garbage dump site in official maps. For many years, over 60% of Nairobi residents who reside in the many slums in and around the city have occupied the ‘non –formal’ residential areas and built what is now known as ‘informal settlements.’ Putting them on the map physically, then socially, then economically and even politically by encouraging an information-driven culture of advocacy is what we have been working at in the last 2 and half years of our existence. In this way, we attempt to ‘formalize the informal’. It’s a pity that some people’s identities are carved for them by others and by circumstances beyond their control. Where we live or lived does not necessarily make us who we are. We believe that we are not products of our environment, we are the creators of it, we sustain its beauty or unbeauty and that’s why we must be the people to change what’s wrong about it.
‘Development’ chaos in the slums
Even as I waited eagerly to interact with other invited leaders from different parts of Africa and the world at the Accra conference, I couldn’t help but reflect at the journey we have made in Kibera, Mathare and now in Mukuru. This was a journey aimed at increasing the spaces of transparency, establishing credible information and data and making it open and accessible to people. Offering marginalized residents alternative citizen platforms to voice their own stories (see Kibera News Networkor Voice of Kibera), making maps, updating them regularly and teaching people how to use them to discuss development issues at community level. Slums are like oceans with many things that cannot be discovered at a glance.
For many years, NGOs and organizations with good intentions swarmed into the slums each armed with a silver bullet – a philosophy that they strongly believed in. These projects were usually too brief to make any meaningful or sustainable effects in the community. They also had very fine points of focus with very strict statistical deliverables and timelines mostly targeting large amounts of quantitative data as the main outputs. As a result, beyond the beautiful statistics, published project reports and nice photos shared among their elite donors and ‘partners’, nothing much of substance came to or remained with the people when these projects came to an end. (Usually they tended to leave as soon as the project money ran out). This ‘development chaos’ characterized by competition for space, donor funds and the community’s goodwill led to the loss of professional integrity, lack of consistency and loss of the urge to network among like-minded initiatives. Corruption found a breeding ground and boom!, a ‘virtual slum’ was created, a slum made famous for the wrong reasons and constructed by NGOs and aid organizations whose ideas have failed to build the community and who have created idle structures that stand in the way of and frustrate new practical methods, ideas or development. And while all this is happening, the real slums and their challenges remain in the shadows wallowing in ignorance, poverty, disease and crime, and watch every day as a new truck passes by full of visiting ‘partners’. The mama mboga sits at the same roadside mud kiosk every day and barely manages to turn away her face to avoid the camera flash glare. She probably wonders why some people are so interested in her picture. She can only complain by turning her head away.