Kibera slum dwellers move to new houses

Wednesday September 16 2009

Former Soweto slum residents move to their new houses. Photo/CHRIS OJOW

Former Soweto slum residents move to their new houses. Photo/CHRIS OJOW 

By KIBIWOTT KOROSS

Kibera slum residents on Wednesday finally moved in to their new houses in Nairobi's Highrise estate.

After loading their belongings onto National Youth Service trucks, the families waited patiently before Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also their area MP, arrived to flag them off at 1pm.

And a convoy of seven lorries and another seven buses soon snaked their way on Mbagathi Road towards the new houses as residents bid bye to the remaining slum dwellers.

“We are going to Canaan!” some youths shouted. Twenty minutes later, Mrs Ayete and her colleagues had arrived at New Highrise Estate.

Mrs Mary Ayete woke up at four in the morning — not to prepare her children for school — but to get ready for the long-awaited move to a new home in New Highrise Estate.

“I had to make sure that I’d be among the first people to get into the new houses,” Mrs Mary Ayete, whose family is one of the first 100 to move to the modern houses from Kibera’s Soweto slums, said on Wednesday. By 7am, she had removed her belongings from the tiny shanty she had called home for 23 years.

The only thing

Her husband, who works in a city restaurant, asked for a day off on Wednesday. He remained behind to look after their property by the road. “We have waited for so long,” said Mr Edward Jirongo, her husband. “This is the only thing that the government has done for us since independence”.

Mrs Hilda Olali was the first to be handed her house keys. She could not hide her excitement. “I never dreamt of living in such a house,” said the 35-year-old mother of four. “The house is so nice. God has done us good!”

The slum upgrading project is targeting some 1,500 families from Soweto East, one of Kibera’s 12 slums. Beneficiaries will pay a Sh1,000 monthly rent for the rooms.

Mr Odinga assured members of the Nubian community that they will not be left out in the programme. “We understand that Kibera is their ancestral land and we will make sure a section of it is given to them,” he said.

The PM said despite a court injunction stopping the demolition of the structures, the government was optimistic that the project will go on as scheduled. “We need better housing. Those who oppose the programme are not mindful of your welfare,” he told the residents.

Monthly rent

According to Housing minister Soita Shitanda, it cost more than Sh500 million to build 17 blocks that comprise 600 two-bedroom units, the first in a series of planned slum upgrading activities, which seek to do away with shanties in 10 years.

“This is the first phase and we are seeking funds to roll out similar projects in Mathare as well as in Kisumu and Mombasa,” he said. It is jointly funded by the ministry and UN Habitat under the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme.

Back in Soweto, Administration Police officers were sent to the area to maintain order after rowdy youth threatened to invade vacant houses left by those who had moved.