Archive for June, 2012

June 7, 2012

Mobile Phones and Development

Walking around the community (Mathare) one will notice the high numbers of young with mobile phones. The most preferred handset among the youth are those with access to internet while old people want handset through which they can access Mpesa. People do not care much whether it is a Chinese or European make.

The days of using mobile phones for calling and talking purposes are long gone. This is just like when people used to work with computers for typing alone. When have reached a stage that access to mobile phone is slowly becoming ‘right’ for all.

The use of computers is quite rampant but not as high as use of mobile phones. There is need to investigate how use of mobile phones can be used to enhance service delivery to the people in informal settlement. The identification of services and needs will help software developers to come up with mobile phone applications to enhance efficiency in service delivery.

Having programmes to facilitate access to cheap phones and computers in the informal settlement can help stimulate meaningful dialogue for development. – Simon

June 6, 2012

Elections and Unresolved IDPs Issue in Mathare

As in other places in Kenya, Mathare residents are eagerly awaiting the date for the next elections with alot of anxiety. This is because Mathare constituency has been created and it has six wards. People will be expected to elect an MP and also six county assembly representatives. Possible aspirants have started emerging with promises. One notable thing about aspirants is very few women have emerged to contest in Mathare as a whole. The current atmosphere does not favour women. There is need to support and encourage possible women aspirants.

My worry is that issues related to internally displaced persons (IDPs) has not been fully resolved. Urban IDPs from Mathare area feels that they have been a forgotten lot. Families that were displaced from Kijiji cha Chewa during the height of post election violence feel neglected by the administration. Frequent transfer of chiefs and their assistants has hampered efforts to resolve their issues.

As we approach elections, these families will elect new leadership which might not be sensitive to their needs. There is need to assist these families as new challenges might emerge in coming elections and these might be a forgotten lot. But what will be the result? During the 1992 land clashes in the Rift Valley and forceful evictions of families at Muoroto in Nairobi the end result was increase in the number of street children and beggars in major urban centres. This is a situation that noboday would want to see again. – Simon


June 5, 2012

Senator Coons Visits Huruma, Mathare

US Senator Coons on the front row and behind him is  US Ambassador Gration both seated next to their spouses

When a United States Senator visits a community mainly in Africa it has to attract attention. This is a country where most young people would like to end if offered an opportunity. We all know how difficult it is to acquire a US Visa. On Wednesday 30th May 2012 was a very special day for Mathare residents as they played host to Senator Christopher Coons of Delware, United States of America. In Kenya we have memories of President Obama visits as a senator. Accompanying the Senator Coons was US Ambassador to Kenya to Ambassador Gration and both were with their wives. It was a special occasion since the residents had the opportunity to interact but at low level because of the tight security. As usual they were surrounded my mean looking guys. I had wanted to be taken a photo with Senator and Ambassador but it was impossible. The entourage was entertained by Jua Kali Drummers from Amref-Children in Need Project among others.

The main event was not even the short speeches but the peoples aspirations and the poured them out. It is not everyday that one has the opportunity to meet such persons as US Senator and Ambassadors. These are people with direct access to the most powerful president in the world.

So the community members shared their desire to see a peaceful election in Kenya. Peaceful election is vital to the youth and women in the slums. It is very difficult for a poor person to live in an insecure places and in an environment surrounded by corruption. A presenter requested to the US Senator and Ambassador to lobby funding to be channeled directly to grassroot groups  as opposed to big established NGOSs.

A representative from refugee community living in Mathare requested for more protection and security for those fleeing prosecution and getting it difficult to access assistance. What can US government do?

“Poverty amongst youthful population has greatly contributed to insecurity and vulnerability to youth being recruited to the Al Shabaab and Al Queida. Youth needs to be addressed urgently”- Youth representative shared. In Nairobi young people are now turning to Middle East countries as a source for employment a situation which needs to be keenly watched since nobody knows what happens and cultural influence this might have when they return from duty.

At the end of the tour, Senator Coons was presented with sandals made from Korogocho and requested to give them to the Obamas. I hope they will be warmly received.

When I was offered the opportunity to introduce the groups that were present to welcome US Senator and Ambassador, I reminded the delegation about my previous blog when Ambassador Gration was posted to Kenya. I wrote him a letter requesting him to visit not only Kibera but Mathare too. I hope this will not be his last visit to Mathare.- Simon

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