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