Archive for ‘Violence’

November 28, 2012

Discrimination in Mosques

Mosque

Why do people go to worship places and does God discriminate against any human being based on colour, hair, complexion, height, weight, socio-economic status? Two friends have been subjected to discrimination inside a Mosque and by fellow Muslim brothers. Why?

The first incidence happened during the Friday prayers. He was behind three Muslim brothers and when my friend bends to remove his sandals, the fellow worshipers before him looked at him suspiciously. Reason? he does look like a person of Borana, Burji or Somali origin. Then all of a sudden they say he is a thief who has been stealing sandals at the Mosque. He is tied under a tree at Huruma Mosque along Outering Road until prayers are over. Later he is beaten and released but with injuries.

On the second incidence, a friend goes to Eastleigh and buys expensive sandals; Ksh. 2000/-. While walking in the neighbourhood of Kiamaiko he is confronted by fellow Muslim brothers that the sandals he is putting on were stolen a short while ago at one of the Mosque. Reason again? He does not belong to the ethnic group that is widely associated with Islam in the area but is a frequent visitor to one of the Mosque. He is also dragged and called unprintable names.  An argument ensues and the person claiming the sandals are his is asked by another Muslim brother ‘what was the size of your stolen sandals?’ The claimant says his sandals are no. 43. The sandals are checked and it turns out that the claimant is wrong. He apologises but the damage is already done.

Stealing of shoes and sandals at the Mosques is a common and has been used by some rogue unfaithful to discriminate based on ethnicity who is responsible for the vice at the mosque.

A new Mosque which has been constructed in the neighborhood of Kiamaiko along Valley Bridge is becoming difficult for people of other ethnic community to enter for prayers.

Currently it is common to find worshipper carrying their sandals in black paper bags while praying.

Discrimination in any house of worship based on ethnicity is an act of religious primitivity. Its is only decent human being who believes on promoting spiritual goodness and belief in Supreme Being cannot practice religious discrimination in the current age.- Simon

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November 20, 2012

Who is a terrorist, Eastleigh Blast?

On 18th November 2012 there was a blast in Eastleigh near Juja road area bordering Mathare which has been attributed to terror action. Several people died but the aftermath of the incident later turned into urgly scenes where people of Somali origin were targeted by criminals.  People were beaten, robbed and it is said that women were raped too. It is unbelieveable to that we are witnessing these kind of scenes as we register and approach elections.

Attacking people based on their religious or ethnic affliation is totally unacceptable. The Universal Declaration on Human Right is very clear on how human beings should treat each other especially the following two articles

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such intereference or  attacks.

Article 13
1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state

2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Actions of a few bad elements within us should not be blamed on the entire community. The question then is, who is a terrorist? Any people who organized or cordinated the blast together with those criminals who retaliated by stealing, injuring and raping women are all one and the same as TERRORIST. In the bible John 10:10 “….the thief come to steal, kill and destroy…”. Any act of terrorism is meant to destroy and kill people. The government should use its might and intelligence in crushing the few bad elements in our midist. If Kenyans are to enjoy their democratic right then peaceful coexistence is important. – Simon

May 18, 2012

Community First Aid Kits

Walking through any urban informal settlement an outsider will see ‘disaster waiting happen’ scenes. Looking at small children playing cooking games with fire, women washing clothes in dirty river, haphazard crossing of Juja Road, open electric wires, possibility of being mugged in dark place,  regular fire outbreaks and people living next to big rocks. The dangers posed broken sewer and open ones are even great incase of major disease outbreak. All these are scenes one will encounter while walking in Mathare.

There have been cases of fire outbreaks which led to loss of life and this was contributed by lack of access road in the inner parts of the community; There are no emergency numbers readily available in the community that people can call for assistance. When assistance is called it takes longer than usual since most people will expect community leaders to be the person to call.

Those who gets injured through various activities both good and back have to seek assistance in far places since the health centres near the community do not operate of 24 hrs basis. This mean that if a disaster strikes at night then it is most likely that number of causalities will be very high compared with day time. Availing first aid kits in strategic points within the community can help reduce number of casualities.  While there has been investments in improving infrastructure, very little has been done to deal with disaster. Having emergency telephone/mobile number people can all and erecting first aid centre can help reduce the number of causalities.  – Simon

January 27, 2012

Elections and Food Insecurity

Urban farming demonstration centre in Mathare funded by European Union

Mathare depends on mainly food transported from outside. This therefore means that if a small disruption occurs then outsider traders cannot access Mathare and sell their food. It also mean that people will not have enough food for survival.

Walking down the valley, there is very little efforts being put by either the government or NGOs to invest in food security. It is common knowledge that during the last election period, traders could not access market to sell their commodities. In one of the villages-Mathare 4B and Gitathuru in 2008, people resorted to breaking houses to steal food and not electronics equipments.

I remember when peace had return after post election violence many NGOs started initiative addressing food insecurity. Currently the most visible programmes on food security in Mathare is the one being led by COOPI where by vulnerable community members are given Kshs. 1500 for food per household. This has been going on close to one year.

Given that we are nearing elections in Kenya, it will be good for various actors to invest more on ensuring that there will be enough food in the market by exploring ways of creating community based silos to store food in vulnerable communities so as to avert food crises. Currently various parts of Rift Valley such Burnt Forest have bumper harvest on maize. From previous elections in Kenya, it is common knowledge that whenever we have elections, case of food insecurity has always been reported.

There can be no free and fair elections if people are hungry. Democracy and access to food and security will always go together. In urban centres it is even worse. Investing more in urban farming and food storage facilities would help avert previous cases of food insecurity before or after elections. – Simon

January 26, 2012

Urban IDPs, Forgotten Lot

Mabatini, Huruma Corner and Kiamaiko were some of the hot spots of 2008 post election violence in Mathare which resulted to setting up of a camp for internally displaced persons at Mathare chief’s camp. The IDPs were from Mathare 3c, Mabatini and Mashimoni areas.

Today former IDPs held a demonstration to protest what they term as a case of them being forgotten or neglected by the government and NGOs. One of the leader of IDPs from Mathare lamented that while in other areas (Rift Valley) IDPs had been resettled or their -plight addressed unlike those from urban areas like Mathare had been forgotten.

Most IDPs I interviewed expressed concern that ‘the IDPs from Rift Vallye are being favoured while those from Mathare have been forgotten’.

After the confirmation of ICC case, IDPs from Mathare felt that nobody was addressing their plight or compensation package. A woman who was part of the demonstration said ‘the ICC case has become more to do with Ruto and Uhuru than victims of post of election violence like us. The government has rushed to form a team to look into Uhuru and Muthaura’s case but not about the IDPs’. This motivated IDPs today to match to Marthare District Offices to seek audience over the matter of compensation. The previous space which was occupied by IDPS had now been turned into urban farming demonstration centre for the community to address food insecurity in Mathare. – Simon

January 18, 2012

Violence and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Mathare 3C: Violence victim at Kenyatta National Hospital

Mathare 3C is well known for brewing of chan’gaa and on several occasion for eruption of violence. On 15th January 2012 rumours had it that 16 pangas had brought into the community in readiness for the announcement from Hague. In another section of the community, small traders located opposite Moi Air Base are living in fear of possible eviction from the site. Reason? Several soldiers have been attacked by criminals hiding in the nearby slums. Small traders are waiting for possible eviction anytime from now. Traders from different ethnic background have decided to deal with criminal and they have formed a group to keep vigil and ensure no more thieve will operate in their zone.

Elsewhere women are discussing increased insecurity in the area whereby their husbands have been attacked by criminals on their way from work

In the evening of 15th January 2012; local leaders, small traders, administration and senior police officers have organized a meeting to discuss the escalating insecurity and tension in the area and also looking at the rumours about the pangas. Why did someone bring 16 pangs?

After meeting that night, violence erupted.  Five people who actively contributed and participated in the security meeting are attacked. They are left bleeding and nursing serious wounds after being attacked. Two people are admitted in intensive care unit (ICU). A few community members come forward to donate blood.

The following morning tension is high and the real reason behind the violence has been overlooked and distorted. The area MP, Hon Margaret Wanjiru appears on the scene…as usual being a politician she politicize the whole issue. The criminals who were being pursued by traders turn it into tribal war. From the above scenario it is becoming evident that gangs are emerging and insecurity is slowly creeping in. At the end of it all weapons of mass destruction to watch out as we approach elections are; rumours, politicization of issues, stones, pangas/machete, tribalism, fire and forceful eviction. –  Simon

January 16, 2012

MATHARE 2012 PERSPECTIVE

2012 will not be an ordinary year for Mathare residents. There is boundary review and the forth coming general elections. This will change overall power relation between the people and local administration. We shall also witness emergence of new leaders; will they follow and be guided by the constitution? let us wait and see. A place like Huruma will now be divided into two if the proposal goes through.

There will be need for the government to invest more in health, road, sewer, security, education and stimulating local economy. Chang’aa has been legalized, how will the local leadership transform this sector from informal to formal industry? How will the local community monitor and hold its leaders accountable. These are only but a few issues that must be addressed in Mathare.

Civic education forums needs to be established if we are to avoid post election violence as witnessed in 2007/2008.

The good news that has come out of the boundary review is the mention of approximate population of Mathare which according to Independent Electrol and Boundary Commission (IEBC) is as follows

Proposed Mathare Constituency
Mlango Kubwa- ward 20463
Mabatini – ward 48723
Huruma A – ward 36248
Huruma B – ward 36247
Kiamaiko – ward 33824
  175,505

Previously people estimated the population. Now it is upon Mathare residents to appear before the commission and share their view regarding the boundary. It is these views that will help shape a better Mathare.-Simon

February 12, 2011

Ex-convict, Changed for Life

Peter Wafula (not his real name) has been jailed four times and shot at six times. He attributes all this to peer pressure and poor upbringing at the hands of his teacher. Peter comes from a single parent background comprised of three bothers. Peter was a quite boy since his childhood. All this changed when he entered class six and the male teacher would always cane his for the no apparent good reason.

Anytime the teacher entered class, he would be summoned for two strokes until it hardened him to withstanding pain. With time Peter became the darling of other ‘tough’ boys in school as a person who could withstand pain. This came with a lot of praise and before he could adjust the ‘fame’, had already spread into the whole of Mathare Village 2.

By the time he was in class 8 (15 years), Peter had already started taking alcohol everyday before attending class. No amount of threats by teachers for expulsion would stop him from the newfound life.

In 1990, Peter was arrested for breaking into a neighbour’s house with an intention to steal. He spent one year in remand. He later won the case against him for lack of evidence from the complainant. The remand life hardened him further. He made ‘resourceful’ friends and network while in the remand. But what amazed him in the remand was how the inmates understood legal matters and ready to offer free legal advice. Their advice helped him navigate easily his case. After spending one year and winning the case, Peter went back to his criminal life with vigour having acquired new skills and social networks.

Unfortunately in 1992, he was shot by the police six times neck, chest, back and right leg  as he attempted to rob motorist along Juja Road. The police wanted to kill him as he had become notorious for snatching valuables from moving matatus. Every thought he would die out of the gun shot. At Kenyatta National Hospital, the doctors managed to remove three bullets immediate to save his life. After staying in the hospital for several months he was sentenced to one month jail and later released. Life became very hard and difficult since the bullet lodged in his thigh and neck affected his mobility and voice. He was forced to ‘cooled’ down his criminal activities.

He became famous as the only person walking with two bullets in his body in Mathare Valley. Everybody would talk about him and how he survived. Since he had ‘toned’ down he attracted the attention of a local catholic priest who assisted him to remove the bullet lodged in his neck and thigh. The operation was paid by the priest. Doctors have been able to locate the sixth bullet. In the initial stages all bullets were visible through scan but only five have been removed through operation.

In 1994, he was arrested for mugging and was remanded for two months and later won the case.

2004 was turning point as Peter was arrested for robbery with violence. This offense sent cold shivers on his spine. He managed to spend 2 years and 5 months in the remand. For the first since he tested the prison life, he was shocked with the experience. The prison warders were harsh to the core. He regretted all what he had been doing and asked God for a second chance in life. Fellow prisoners gave him moral support. He experience homosexuality for the first time; how inmate were forced by circumstance into homosexuality for survival. In the two year he was in remand, Peter managed to make friend with 300 people whom he knew by their full names.

Since November 2006, Peter has never even thought of stealing or breaking the law. His experience in the prison and the hard life changed him completely.

Peter has now retired to quite life and works as a casual labourer in construction site. You will never know what he has been through life not unless he tells you the story. – Simon

January 31, 2011

Attempted Rape by a Neighbour

Poster on rape

The community needs more information on issues such as gender based violence

I was holding my phone wondering whether to redeem my Safaricom bonga points or ask for credit through the 131 system. As I was pondering what to do, Jane called. Jane (real name withheld) was violently attacked by her neighbour of four years who has on several occasion threatened to rape. Jane has on three occasion reported the matter to the village elders.   Today – 30/1/2011 she called seeking assistance as the neighbour attempted to rape her but she managed to fight back and in the process sustained serious physical injuries. After listening to her case for three minutes, it dawned on me that she was using her credit to call and also she is traumatized and nursing some physical injuries. I disconnected her and redeemed 15 minutes from my Safaricom bonga points. I called her back and assured her to use all my community connections and contacts to help.

Immediately called the MSF France (Blue House) team for medical assistance in the process, I found myself calling more than 10 people in and three organization which included the local community policing chairman. After all these, I called her not to tamper with evidence of attack as it will be part of the evidence she informed me that, the neighbours had decided to rush her to a private clinic as she was serious bleeding. When we finished our conversation, I called a grass root human rights defender (HRD), Beatrice Caroli who responded with speed. She managed to link up with Jane at the private clinic to offered counselling and moral support. Beatrice later took Jane to the nearby police station. At the police station Jane recorded a statement and she was issued with OB number and told to return the following for tomorrow for P3 forms.

I was left wondering what will happen to her when she returns to her house while the rapist is still next door? This is when the law becomes a challenge; the rapist has to be subjected to due process of the law while tonight Jane will sleep waiting for justice. How long will it take? Jane like many other single women in Mathare live under constant and real threat of violence. -Simon

January 20, 2011

The Vice of Violence in Mathare

MSF

In the early hours, when the first sun rays start to kiss the Mathare soil, a team from the international health organization medicines sans frontiers roam around mathare slums in search for victims of violence. Cases of violence have been in the rise in Mathare but there is a disgraceful trend in most of the violence cases being reported of late, the cases of child abuse. These cases are of the worst order: having children face abuse is not only illegal but inhumane, cruel, and it’s hard to comprehend such levels of indecency. To add salt to the shameful wound, the abuse cases being report indicate that parents are most likely person to abuse and to subject their children to obscene forms of violence.

The other forms of violence face by the slum dwellers are just but a norm  and are often ignored, like when a woman is raped the chances of her reporting the matter to the police are none. All this is because of shame and stigma brought about by rape. Wife battering is typical and often time’s people would disregard the calls and screams of a woman who is being beaten by the husbands and saying that “they were together while falling [in love] so let them be together in fighting”. The people of mathare heal quickly: just six months after the post election violence it was witnessed the people forgot what happened, and the post election violence is a very rare topic to hear people talking about in the squares. But when the violence involves a child it leaves a scar that will last forever, a scar so big it will forever imprinted on the child’s memory when he grows up.

Take the case of woman who in the New Year’s Day severely caused bodily harm to her six year old daughter whom she accused of stealing 30 shillings from her. The child was tied arms together like a thief and then kerosene was poured to her hands and set ablaze. No one came to the aid of the child, not even the other neighbor who’s house is divided by just a thin roofing iron and could hear the child calling out for help. It took the intervention of the of the child’s teacher who was curious after the school found the girl did not attend the first week of school. The teacher decided to go to the girls home only to find the girl locked out of her home because the mother had gone to look for work as house help. With wounds that have started to decay the girl was helped by the teacher to file a report with the Police. After the woman was released just two hours after she was arrested  because she is a single parent of three children, she didn’t even bother the following day and she went back to her day job care free leaving her daughter without food and more. Worse, the girl is locked out of her home so she sits outside till evening.

These are one of many cases the that Medicines sans frontier grapple with on a day to day basis After doing their rounds for about 3 hours their van is usually filled with a catalogue of rape victims, child abuse victim, outpatients – mainly those who suffer from HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis – and these are both adults and children. The victims and patients are driven to the organizations office where they get special treatment for free. The center, also called the `blue house,’ provides free ARV drugs and handouts to the out patients while giving medical care and counseling to rape victims.

It’s a sad plight to the look at the medic’s van in Mathare, but we have to understand that all forms of violence are vices we the people of Mathare created and we just look at them as they happen, but we can stop them. That’s why awareness of any problems facing the dwellers is important, to be able to have a platform which to develop interactions and coexistence with the people of mathare and to discuss on a way to curb insecurity and protection of women and children who live in fear. The talk of neighborhood watch, building police post at every village of mathare, spreading the message of peace and getting the youth engaged in activities that will help transform their life.

Surely it’s a long journey, to convince the men who have lived in a society that believes that battering your wife is a show of manhood, or the women who believe that burning their children will instill discipline. It will be hard to drive the point home, but the target can be just to bring awareness on the youth who am sure will be vocal against violence. And for the political instigated violence based on tribal origin, Mathare slum dwellers themselves should wake up and smell the coffee, or changa for that matter, and they should understand that tribalism is the devil’s dance floor and causes rifts in the society. Our differences should not be a cause for chaos but celebration of our diversity. It all starts with the person him/herself, especially we the youth. We have to have the will and determination to create peace and maintain it for the future generations.

– Jeff

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