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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hard living in a shanty town......

Share the riches with the poor, before they share the poverty with you. That's a line from the late Joseph Hill, the lead singer for the reggae group Mighty Culture. Listening to that song and living on the "other side of Moi Avenue" as my boss puts it, I can't help but wonder where the big city is headed.
So this morning, I woke up at 4.00am as I do every weekday. After the usual sprucing up I left the house at five-thirty to go pick a matatu to work. After yesterday's disappointment of being stuck in traffic for three whole hours, I was not going to do it again. I hate traffic jams and that's why I opted to start early.
At five-thirty, Roysambu roundabout was full of people. You would have thought that the nearby Moi Sports Centre Kasarani had just hosted an international meet. All these people were going to work. The vehicles, the matatus were so few. But there were so many KBJs and KBCs carrying one or two people to work.
It made me want to buy a car, but on a salary like mine, a modest one to allow me to "dwell" in the city, that was just a wish. And just as if reading my thoughts, Aluanga, my good neighbour commented: "Now that it has come to this, I think it is fair for me to buy a car." Yeah, just like that. Now, that's what we call freedom.
So, I walked all the way to Safari Park Hotel to get a matatu before it reached the huge crowd at Roysambu. And now, the matatu conductor, in the typical capitalist nature of the Kenyan economy, decided that because the demand was high and the supply was low, we had to pay Sh100--double the official bus fare.
Well, that's business. Willing buyer, willing seller. Whether it's fair or not, that's another matter altogether. What's fair anyway?
Instead of going to the City Centre via the busy Thika Road, which is usually a nightmare in the morning, the matatu decided to pass via Baba Dogo, then cross Outering Road into Mathare and navigate through the shanties only to emerge on Juja Road near Pangani.
I tell you.
We have been using this route. But then, today it was different. There were over 30 matatus inside the Mathare slums. Nose to tail. Normally, it would just be three or four matatus, but now, in that short time, everyone was using this route.
The Mathare guys, the hundreds of idle young men began to get jittery: Cheki hawa masonko wanacome kutusumbua kwa yard yetu. Si waende kule wamezoea.
Such was the comment.
Well, I was right here in the middle of the 'wretched of the earth' in an early Nairobi morning and they were getting mad that we had intruded. Yes, they were right.
Here were angry people, who perhaps missed their dinner getting out of their iron sheet shanties and looking at smartly dressed people making noise in their peaceful neighbourhood, waking them up.
We were in that matatu going to work; while here were people who did not know where to go to work because they have no jobs. They would have loved to take a Matatu but they have no money. They still walk to work everyday and pass by the rich Muthaiga all the way past Pangani to the city.
Others walk to the Industrial Area and by the time they reach, they have been beaten to the available vacancies by the other 'wretched of the earth' from Korogocho and Kibera and even Mukuru Kwa Njenga.
Those who get work are piled on the lorries and ferried to construction sites. Thereafter, in the evening, with Sh200, they have to find their way back to Mathare. The amount is just two dollars, but you can't spend it because you don't know where you'll get more money...tomorrow is another day.
These are people. We live in the same city. But it has now become hard for me to pass by their dwellings without batting an eye-lid. I'd love them to live well. But then we all can't be equal.
The poor have no friends and even a close look at Proverbs in the Bible tells you why.
So how is that my problem?
I know it is, because, we "gotta chase them crazy, chase them crazy, chase them crazy bald heads (and demagogues) out of town. It seems like the only way out of this mess. Or more blood will ooze out later this year, more may be splattered next year and come 2012 alot of blood will flow. Tell me about it.
They have began, but they have forgotten why we fought.

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