As a young boy growing up in Mathare I always wondered why parents came to Mathare in late 60s and decided to settle there. As small boys we would go to river Gitathuru for swimming, near Utalii Hotel. This is where we acquired our aquatic skills. I also learnt one or two tricks about golf at Muthaiga but through watching golfers. I used to visit the dam near the golf course for ‘illegal’ fishing sessions and I would have the rare opportunity of watching our current president playing golf but then he was a minister for health. These are wonderful memories I still carry along. Reflecting back my childhood experience and now that I am a grown up man, I am made to understand and appreciate the warmth and the ready to help attitude that existed within Mathare Valley. While the affluent neighbourhoods will respond quickly to a member of his country club, in Mathare we help our immediate neighbours. Today I will take you through 8 reasons why it was ‘comfortable’ then to live in Mathare based on available social amenities and leadership;
- Housing: The houses then ranged from between 150/- to 200/-. It was very much affordable. The houses were constructed with soil and small stones
- Employment: Most of our parents worked in Pangani and Parklands as artisan or house helps
- Security: People knew each other by name. A new person in the area was closely monitored by the village elders. At some point one was asked to state their reason of moving into the new location. The valley was also surrounded by Muthaiga and Pangani police stations and not forgetting the Mathare Chief’s Camp
- Education: School was highly valued. There were community nursery schools and every parent made sure that their children were enrolled. Those very needy were assisted by the World Vision through Redeemed Gospel Church led Bishop. Arthur Kitonga.
- Youth Development activities: The late Father Grol and Father John Slinger (still alive) were instrumental in helping youth nurture their sporting skills such boxing, soccer and arts.
- Accessibility: From Mathare people could easily reach town, industrial area and the majority who were from Central province could alight from Muthaiga to Mathare Valley easily
- Leadership: The local leaders then were very strict, gender insensitive and also ‘dictatorial’ when it came to development. Nobody would question their decision. Women never participate in the decision making organs of the community.
- Fire outbreaks: It was very easy to putout fires. The houses were well arranged and roads wide enough for Lorries and big trucks to pass.
When chief would summon community for the barazas, all shops and bars were required to close or one will be arrested. Failure to attend the meetings also attracted the wrath of local leaders and the chiefs. I remember there was a woman who butted a man and she was expelled from village 2 to village 1. Not taking into account the man had battered the woman for several years. We have come from far in Mathare.- Simon