Sunday, 6 October 2013

Nairobi, Kenya

I've really enjoyed spending the last few weeks in Kenya. I like Nairobi a lot and going forward, this is a place I intend to visit as often as I can. My holiday is coming to its end, and in a few hours I should be on an aeroplane ferrying me back to Europe; first to Paris, France and then onward to London; back to the drudgery of life in England, the stony and expressionless faces of the people you encounter on your daily commute; that cold, dull and dreary weather. Whatever one says about Africa, it remains the case that in the overall, people in Africa are happy; and certainly happier than people in Europe! I will miss Kenya and Nairobi in particular.

But of course there are other things that have to be said, issues that I have found particularly unpleasant. Class, is more of an issue in Kenya than it is anywhere else I've been to, except Brazil. With Brazil's history though, the wideness of the gap in the social hierarchy is explainable with a measure of rationality. Much less so with Kenya.There simply is no reason (save for greed and selfishness) why, for example, one kilometre from the splendid, clean and well maintained Central Business District (CBD) of Nairobi, is located Africa's largest slum, Kibera, where more than 2 million of Nairobi's inhabitants live, a significant proportion of the city's population.

Kibera is only one of several slum areas in the city. Indeed much of Nairobi is slummy, even those other areas such as Eastleigh, Juja Road and other such places that are not officially designated as slums. Its particularly bad because these slummy areas are largely neglected, almost as if the inhabitants (usually the poorer lower classes) are insignificant and irrelevant. Street cleaning, for instance, takes place only in the CBD and in those plush highbrow parts of town where well-to-do Nairobians live. Poor people, it seems, are not worthy of having their streets cleaned. 200 metres outside the CBD and every street corner is piled high with rubbish (garbage as my American friends will say), because, of course, there are no upper-class people resident in the vicinity. I have found it deplorable.

The society's sharp class distinction also means that there is much resentment between the classes. Being class-neutral myself, I have found it easy to hold conversations with all kinds of people. Indeed, the most interesting chats I've had since I've been in Kenya, have been with two separate individuals; one, Simba, a security guard and the other Moses, a bus conductor. Its interesting to see how truly insightful some of these so called "lower-class" people can be. But its the deep resentment that I observed which has touched me the most. In the aftermath of the Westgate Mall tragedy, I got the distinct feeling that there were quite a few among the lower classes who have little sympathy for the unfortunate victims of the terrorists. "Only well-to-do upper-class people could afford to visit Westage after all, so what did it matter if they died?" Quite troubling, I thought.. — in Nairobi, Kenya.


Mimi said...

Wow, it's been so long since I've read one of your posts, and its such a pleasant surprise. I think these class differences are noticeable in a lot of African countries, but I trust your judgement in saying it's worse in Kenya than anywhere else you have visited. I too have heard grumblings from a particularly insightful Kenyan friend of mine that there have been several terrorist attacks in Kenya recently, although none of them were on this scale or targeting these kinds of people so no one cared very much and they weren't in the media. It's a shame.

Anengiyefa said...
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Anengiyefa said...

Hello Mimi, its wonderful to hear from you too. I'm not sure if I can ascribe my seeming absence from the blog to a severe case of writer's block, (as I'd like to do), or if I should admit (at the risk of offending my blogger pals) that a [reluctant] addiction to Facebook might have something to do with it.. But anyway, I'm still here. Hope you've been well?

Kenya.. even while I was there and only days after the Westgate Mall terror attack, there was a shooting incident in Korogocho, another slum neighbourhood in Nairobi, involving the police in which several innocent children were shot dead (by the police!). The story barely made the news, they're "poor people", you see.. Its trite that the Kenya Police are known to engage, er, suspected of engaging in extra judicial killings. Something about some Muslim clerics in Mombasa last week? Anyway, best I shut up now, lest I get myself into trouble..

But really, I love Kenya. Just thinking about the place makes my heart beat faster. I must go back there, and soon.. :)