Over 15 months between March 2019 – August 2020, MSJC’s disability justice campaign worked on a report highlighting the many grave injustices that people with disabilities in informal settlements live through everyday. Like our other reports, this one was anchored in participatory action research and built on previous conversations and community dialogues on disability in Mathare that we have organized over the last two years.
It is our hope that this report contributes to getting dignity and social justice for some of our most marginalised community members. And we hope you will hear their words, experiences, desires and demands and take up their call for justice. As we know and as they say: Tuna Haki Pia!
The report can be accessed through this link: https://www.matharesocialjustice.org/disability-justice-report-tuna-haki-pia/
One of our ‘field marshals’ at MSJC, Dennis Orengo, was featured in a recent BBC Food Chain Podcast examining the struggles for food that communities in India and Kenya are dealing with, and that are made worse by the pandemic. Orengo talks about how the lockdown in Kenya has impacted many families in poor settlements, and the reality of having to eat only one meal a day. You can listen through this link:
The wave of this two wheeled transport began in the 1980s in Busia and Malaba borders of Kenya and Uganda. This form of transport satisfied the need for quick transport across the border through no man’s lands, hence the trade flourished and more bicycles plied this route. More riders set up ‘bases,’ that is ferrying points along the route, and they had to call out to clients from a distance. To do that, they shouted “BODA! BODA!” which is a corruption of border to border. Today it has become a reliable means of transport and spawned an industry from which millions derive a livelihood.
Such is the success of the boda boda industry that a group of boda boda operators organized themselves and formed a cooperative society that has evolved into a multi-million shilling housing project in Mathare area number 10. To emphasize the seriousness of this form of transport, the word “boda boda” made its way to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017. Collins and Macmillan dictionaries define the term as a bicycle taxi or a bicycle rider in charge of a motorcycle.
According to the National and Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) there are 1, 631, 314 motorcycles in Kenya as of March, 2020. NTSA data shows that the economic contribution of boda boda’s is estimated at an average of slightly above 190 billion annually. Today, many Kenyans have preferred riders to send on errands. In remote and inaccessible areas it’s the major form of transport, while in cities like Nairobi, residents use it to beat traffic jam. Many Kenyans both in cities and rural areas prefer to use boda boda because they maneuver easily where taxis and buses cannot. Their arrival has also saved lives for instance when Daniel Mburu, a twenty-four year old boda boda rider, saved a young girl who was drowning in Korogocho river and rushed her to Mama Lucy hospital where her life was saved. Unfortunately for Mburu, he was shot dead by the police within the same hospital premises after saving the young girl’s life. Boda bodas have created jobs and transformed the lives of young jobless Kenyans. But, there is a darker side to boda boda implosion as our research found out.
The boda boda riders in Nairobi, especially in Mathare Sub County and the larger Nairobi Eastlands, have accused the police of harassment and using crude methods to arrest them. The police officers who are supposed to deal with security issues are putting up road blocks and laying ambush at Dandora and Kariobangi roundabout along Outering road. The same brutality and extortion happens along Thika road next to Mathari mental hospital and within the Mathare villages. During these times, the officers demand bribes between Kenya shillings 5000 to 30, 000. During certain times the boda boda riders have been forced to flee just as the customer was about to pay when the (rider) notices policemen walking towards them to lay an ambush. In some instances during the ambush, both the rider and the customer gets thorough beatings from the police despite the fact that it’s not illegal to operate a boda boda business. Whenever any rider is arrested and demands to be arraigned in court instead of paying bribes, the police threaten to file charges on them for offences they didn’t commit such as drug trafficking.
The government must therefore compel the police to stop the harassment because the boda boda sector offers employment to a large constituency of youths in the country and it’s a major contributor to the country’s economy. Youths who invest in this sector do not want to engage in unlawful acts such as robbery and that’s why they take up loans from financial institutions to purchase the motorcycles. The cardinal question the young boda boda riders pose to the government is: “how will they manage to repay their loans if the little they get is taken away by the rogue police?” The government must protect the youths and provide a conducive business environment.
The youths also appeal to the Nairobi County ward representatives to develop and come up with a Nairobi County boda boda policy. This will help owners and operators whose current reputation has sometimes been linked to insecurity. This policy must promote the security of the motorcycle industry amongst all stakeholders and ensure all adhere to traffic laws.
The boda boda operators and owners also thanked Mathare Social Justice Centre through Lenah Anyuolo and Dennis Orengo who visited them in their bases, and taught them about the rights of arrested persons (Article 49 ) and freedom and security of persons (Article 29) in the Kenyan constitution. They acknowledged the knowledge of the law in the constitution empowers them in fighting against police extortion and brutality.
On March 21st 2018 MSJC received the Father Kaiser Award from the Law Society of Kenya. This prize was to honour the work we have been doing around extrajudicial executions. We thank you LSK for the recognition and the support and look forward to walking together for justice. See pictures below from this event.
On March 31st MSJC organized a Community Dialogue on Disability which was attended by forty people. Below a recap of Mathare’s first community dialogue on disability.
In Mathare there are an estimated 300 persons living with disabilities of different types. Many of them are unregistered and face dire situations living in the slums of Mathare. On this day five speakers were present, who addressed the challenges that people with disabilities in Mathare face and did recommendations on how some of these issues may be faced.
The first speaker was Joan Njoki from MSJC, who herself has a son that suffers from Celebral Palsy. Joan discussed the different forms of disabilities, ranging from physical to intellectual, visual, oral and developmental. These disabilities can come in mild, moderate, severe or profound forms, which all comes with different challenges. In order to give sufficient help, it is crucial for people to be informed and to know what specific disability they or their child suffer from. A main goal of this dialogue was to broaden this knowledge. Furthermore, Joan addressed the main challenges that accompanies disability, such as housing, transport, education ,employment, reproductive health issues and a lack of income generating projects for the disabled. Besides that there is a lack of diapers for children and adults, as well as medicines and orthopedic devices. The disabled are in desperate need of therapy, but the places that offer therapy or daycare are not available or reachable for everyone. On top of that many people with a disability face stigmatization within and outside the community.
However, there are some institutions that can provide therapy and nutrition for the disabled, which were also addressed during this dialogue. Therapy and nutrition is provided by German doctors in Baraka, St. Mollas in Mathare North, Salama primary school, Mathare hospital and St. Francis in Kariobangi. Ongoing therapy (also at home) and good nutrition is important, while it can relieve pain and prevent more severe complaints and worsening of the disability. It is key that people are aware of the importance of therapy and nutrition and the places where it is provided.
The second speaker was Muriuki from Salama Primary Special Unit. He discussed some of the causes of disabilities and did recommendations on how to reduce the chance of a disability or the worsening of a disability. Causes may be found pre-birth, but also after the birth of the child. Pre-birth causes may be found in the (old) age of the mother, conditions during the pregnancy (such as drinking alcohol or bad nutrition) and insufficient care given to the mother during the pregnancy. However, a disability can also have a genetic cause. A disability may also occur after birth, for instance when a sick child is neglected and healthcare is not sought in time. If a disability is not managed properly the conditions can get worse. Muriuki also emphasized that awareness of disabilities is important. Parents should be aware of the conditions and need to manage the disability better through seeking timely medical care.
Besides that, Muriuki informed the people on institutions which provide special education for people with a disability. Such as City primary (Autism), Parklands primary and Heidemarie (Celebral Palsy), Muthaiga primary (Blind), Salama (Mental disability/Down syndrome) and special school (Mental problems).
Our third speaker was Cecilia, a social worker from the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK). Cecilia addressed how people with a disability should register with the government. When this is done, people can apply for subsidies and other forms of support (such as orthopedic support, walking aid or education subsidies) from the government. Again, Cecilia highlighted the importance of knowing what your kid is suffering from, good nutrition and ongoing therapy sessions.
Our next speaker was Liz Waithera. She informed us about the Mathare day centre, which opened on the 3rd of April. This centre offers, among other things, day care services for children with disabilities. Moreover, they aim for economic empowerment for adults through an arts and music program. If someone for instance produces art, the Mathare day centre can help them market it and help you to eventually make some money out of it. The Mathare day centre is open every week, from Monday until Friday.
Last but not least, Lucy Kabura from Rural Aid Kenya spoke about the possibility to receive higher education, partly funded by the government. There is a special consideration for people with disabilities, so they can also benefit from this option. There is also the possibility of distance learning, where you only register and pay for the exams. This can be an outcome for people with a disability, while for them it may be impossible to go towards the campus.
It can be concluded that it was a fruitful community dialogue in which many useful things have been discussed. On behalf of MSJC we would like to thank everyone who partook in this informative dialogue. MSJC dreams of an integrated and informed society and through these forums we hope to reach as many people as possible and to grow with each gathering.
Thank you for your solidarity! See some pictures below from this dialogue on disability
MSJC does not run without the dedication, courage and creativity of our field coordinator JJ/Kennedy Chindi. After close to two decades doing justice work, Kennedy Chindi or JJ, as he is more popularly known, won a significant majority of votes claiming the Public Choice Award at the Human Rights Award Ceremony that was help on January 26th 2018 at the Embassy of the Netherlands.
This award is a small recognition of the work JJ does tirelessly in Mathare and beyond to document and advocate on behalf of those who have been subject to human rights violations. He is always available and always sought by all. We love and value JJ immensely and are so proud of his work which, as the voting showed two Friday’s ago, is unquestionable and appreciated by all. Viva JJ! Viva Mathare! Viva MSJC! We thank you to all who showed their appreciation for JJ in this way, for helping us to celebrate his courage, love and dedication!
JJ and comrades celebrating his award at the ceremony
On Christmas Eve, a big fire broke out in Mathare slums, Kosovo, burning down close to 800 houses and leaving over a 1000 victims in the cold with barely anything left to their names. Mathare Social Justice Center (MSJC) appeals to all friends of Mathare to give both in kind (food, bedding and clothes) and/or cash donations to help the fire victims in the best way we can. MSJC will distribute the bedding, food and clothes donations, and will use the cash donations to buy more of the same to help the over 1000 people who now lack even the most basic items such as shelter and food. Kindly donate to 0728174329 (Wangui Kimari — MSJC PAR Coordinator). Any amount is appreciated. You can also drop off donations at our office on Juja Road on the ground floor of the post office/Macharia building, close to Olympic Petrol Station and Moi Air Base. Here is a google pin for the location: https://goo.gl/maps/siSsCwE9Uis
Please call JJ at 0736818798 if you would like to drop donations off or need further directions.
Below are some pictures of the fire and its aftermath.
We are happy to report that because of the solidarity we received from you all, JJ was released on the very same day! Thank you so much for your solidarity calls to the police station as well as your emails and calls to ask to inquire about JJ’s safety!
We really appreciate it all and hope to continue owrking together in love, solidarity and unity!
Kennedy Chindi (JJ) a human rights defender with Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) was today morning arrested by Huruma Police station officers and detained at the police station allegedly for “creating disturbance.” JJ had gone to inquire about the arrest and torture of youths from Huruma Car Wash, and the police detained him for supposedly harassing them about this. JJ’s arrest is part of the malicious and systematic criminalisation of grassroots human rights defenders in Mathare that has intensified since the election outcome on 11/8/2017.
When the police responded with violence after the election results were announced, Kennedy Chindi was involved in documenting cases of victims of extrajudicial killings and police brutality in Mathare with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Kenya Human Rights commission (KHRC)
Kennedy Chindi has been detained at the Huruma police station since 11 am today (September 15th 2017), and we are seeking your solidarity for his immediate and unconditional release.
1. Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC)
2. Coalition for Grassroots Human Rights Defenders (CGHRD)
This event organized by MSJC and its network of human rights monitors, was held on 2nd August 2017 at the CDF hall in Huruma. Twelve-year-old Joseph Mulua and his colleague Dipsy Ng’ang’a from Huruma ward, kicked off the event with a dance-off battle as people trickled into the hall. The turn-out was quite impressive as the people of Mathare began to show up in their large numbers, both male and the female. There were close to 200 people who turned up for the event. The youth were the largest group in the hall, some of them taking a break from their NYS (National Youth Service) duties to come and participate in the forum.
MSJC’s Kinuthia Mwangi took to the stage and made opening remarks while inviting representatives from Sauti Yetu and University Mtaani to introduce themselves to the community members present. Following this, two members of University Mtaani graced the stage to educate people on the dynamics of voting and what goes on at the polling stations. They educated the community on each stage of voting through the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) pamphlets handed to them. Questions were asked for clarity and they were answered immediately. Leaving a general mood of good voter education happening, hoping for no or few spoilt votes in the upcoming elections on August 8th.
Huruma Ward MCA Political Accountability
The first session to kick off was the debate of the Members of County Assembly, of which two aspirants for Huruma ward showed up for the forum. These were Vincent Sisia and Alex Mburu. Upon introduction, they both mentioned the issues facing Huruma ward: sanitation, security and crime among young men. The two aspirants appeared to both acknowledge the existence of these issues. A platform was also given to the community members to ask questions to the aspirants and mention the issues they face as Huruma ward residents. Among the key issues were insecurity, health and sanitation, youth empowerment, tribalism, water inadequacy.
Sisia, on the issue of jobs for the youth, talked of young people being given jobs to clean the community environment themselves. Alex talked of following up on youth development funds to help the youth start their businesses. He also mentioned allocating the youth bursaries to study technical courses then get jobs if he was elected to office. Jobs for garbage collection would also be made available for the youth.
The aspirants were asked by members of the audience if any of them had done anything to help the youth in Huruma before running for this position, and Sisia mentioned that he had worked with the youth on wood work and carpentry. Alex Mburu responded to this by saying he had created employment of about 200 young people from Huruma ward in his matatu sacco business. A community member stood up and asked the aspirants what the position of the adults in society is, since the aspirants seemed to only be concerned with the welfare of the youth. Sisia made it clear to the audience that he would work with everyone for the betterment of the community.
A community member present asked what plans the aspirants have for the disabled people and how they intend to fight extrajudicial killings. Sisia mentioned sourcing out for donors to consider wheelchairs for the disabled people. On extrajudicial killings, he added that he would group the young people to buy them bikes for the boda boda business, as a way to keep them out of crime. Alex assured the people of inclusiveness if elected to office. He also mentioned giving civic education to the youth on avoiding drugs, crime and availing them with opportunities to earn a living.
The aspirants were asked how they intend to include the public in their leadership, and with article 104 of the constitution being quoted on the need for leaders to be held accountable and the power of the people to be able to recall back those that do not live up to their duties as leaders. They were then asked of their consent to be held accountable to the Huruma community and the possibility to be recalled back if they failed. Both the aspirants accepted the pledge. Alex persuaded the community members to also take an individual decision each to be responsible for the betterment of the community. He said, it all starts with us.
A skit was showcased on stage by Hope Entertainers group, educating the community members on tribalism and the need for peace, for a better tomorrow. Danito (an up and coming local reggae musician) took the stage to perform his reggae tunes on social justice and issues confronting the community at the grass roots level. He gave an outstanding performance.
Present were two Mathare MP Aspirants, John Wesonga and Gacheke Gachihi. They were offered a platform to introduce themselves. Gacheke seemed to have this affiliation to music on his campaign. He started with Juliani’s Utawala song and sang it through his introduction speech. The crowd joined in and sang along to the powerful lyrics.
The first issue raised to the aspirants was accessibility of office should either of them be elected to power. Wesonga assured the people of Mathare that he will be as accessible to them as he has been for the longest time now. Gacheke also made an assurance to the community members that he will remain to be available for them, while working closely with community centers to initiate projects that will benefit the community even long after his existence in power.
The floor was opened for questions from community members to the aspirants. An elderly female member of the community asked the aspirants if they intend to maintain direct communication with the people of Mathare after elected to power, or they would cut contact and disappear for five years just like their predecessors. Another member of the community also stood up and asked how the aspirants intend to help change the mental slavery that is ignorance among the people of Mathare. This was followed by yet another question on what the roles of a Member of Parliament are.
Wesonga pointed out the need for the youth to be taught on how to think beyond and set up businesses and companies. He urged the women to use their small groups and start enterprises so that the face of Mathare would change to a community of enterprises. On communication, Wesonga guaranteed never changing his phone number. He clearly put himself as the point of contact and reference for the community’s needs, that if there be any problems he can’t solve as the MP for Mathare, he can always champion for them as a leader for his duty is to his people.
Gacheke affirmed that he won’t walk away from the community activities he had been engaging in before parliament. He looks beyond communication via phone and affirmed that he will sit down with the people of Mathare often and have discussions on real issues faced, even after the elections. Gacheke urged the people to come together and work to change their own situations without awaiting outside help as self-reliance is the key first step to true freedom and development.
On their closing remarks, both candidates championed for peaceful elections and said they would be willing to accept defeat and work together, regardless of who got elected in and who did not.