Kenya power and lighting company disconnects illegal power lines in Mathare North

At twenty six years old, David* is now a jobless man and much poorer than he ever was before. David was a barber, operating in Nairobi’s mathare north and in a normal working days he could make ksh500. But during bad times, he made less than ksh250. That was before the Kenya power and lighting company (KPLC) workers moved in swiftly in his neighborhood, accompanied by city police and cut off his power supply and arrested him. “They accused me of tapping power illegally from their sources and claimed I was a mungiki adherent. I spent two harrowing days in the Muthaiga police cells before I was charged at the Kibera Law Courts. The magistrate handed me a ksh20, 000 fine or 6 months imprisonment in default. My family had to organize to a fundraiser to bail me out,” explains David. But like everyone affects with the power disconnections, David pleads his innocence. Of course there is no such thing as illegal connections: “The same KPLC officials connected my power and would pay something like Ksh300 per month. We slum people don’t have rights. We are always harassed by such corporations as KPLC since we can’t stand for our rights’’ he laments.

Just behind the place where David’s barber shop once stood, a little, dilapidated mabati pub leans weakly threatening to collapse anytime as strong wind blows by. On its door is a conspicuous sign reading, ester’s keg parlor. A seemingly underage girl sits inside it. Her name is Judy*. And she too, like David, has a story to tell: my mother owns this pub she was arrested by police, accompanied by KPLC workers, after being accused of illegal power connection. She was fined ksh2000 which we couldn’t raise. She is now serving a six month jail term in lang’ata women’s prison. Judy explains, adding I have to make sure the pub runs since it is our source of livelihood.

* Names have been changed.

— Javin


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