Control the Growth of Slums in the City

Editorial, The Nation (Nairobi), 29 June 2001

The mushrooming of slums, and expansion of old shanty towns in Nairobi and other urban centres has reached alarming proportions. So rapid is the spread that shanties now threaten to swamp formal settlements whose construction has dwindled to a trickle. It is estimated that about 70 per cent of Nairobi's estimated three million residents live in shanties. These are not necessarily mud-walled structures alone; most of the low and middle-class constructions that have degenerated for lack of maintenance are in that class too.

Many City Council estates built in pre-independence days fell into this category decades ago. They include Shauri Moyo, Gorofani, Ofafa Maringo, Kaloleni, Bahati, Mbotela, Makadara, Kariobangi North, Ofafa Jericho, Jerusalem, Biafra, Old Ngara and Ziwani among others. They will soon enough be joined by Dandora, Umoja, parts of Buru Buru, Olympic, Komorock and Kayole.

Reports towards the end of last year to the effect that the City Council and an Egyptian firm, Arab Contractors, would replace seven of the ageing Nairobi estates with modern high-rise flats from last January appear to have been a pipe-dream. Neither the council, nor its collaborators—the National Housing Corporation and the Commonwealth Development Corporation—are active in construction any more.

Valiant efforts by the Catholic Church's Amani Trust Housing in conjunction with the Government of Germany to upgrade part of Mathare Valley were met with violent opposition by the residents who claimed the rent for the new houses would be beyond their means. The chairman of the Architectural Association of Kenya, Mr Sylvester Wafula, last weekend blamed the violence on slum-lords—shanty-owners who incite their tenants to sabotage the Mathare A4 project for fear of losing their source of livelihood. The uncontrolled growth of shanties in a city seriously afflicted by crime and lack of essential services portend a grave danger for the country. It is time the uncontrolled growth of sums was halted.