Thursday, May 22, 2008

Land. Kenya

60% of Nairobi lives in slums, but some housing remains empty

Ultimately, much of these housing challenges are about land. In fact, the issue of land has continued to be a divisive issue, and was one of the main reasons that such extensive violence broke out after the elections. After independence, the redistribution of land, and the process by which it took place left deep divisions among different tribes, as preference was given to those who had connections, regardless of who had owned the land before the Europeans claimed it as their own. And of course, these challenges to land continue today, and in fact is very indicative of the political problems of corruption and favoritism that keep the rich and powerful just that.

This crazy world introduced itself to instantly as we piled out of the Matatu on valley road as we headed to Kibera for the first time. Looming over the entrance to Kibera were sprawling apartment blocks. The windows were busted out, grass over grown, and completely fenced off. I asked my companion what the story was. He said a private developer had acquired the land illegally, went ahead and built the project (supposedly for residents of Kibera). But, people were never allowed to move it, and now six years later, it still stands empty while right NEXT DOOR 600,000 people live in quite shocking conditions.

So much is always talked about the poor illegally staking to claim to land, but here, it seems that the wealthy may be even more blatantly illegally acquire land than the poor do.

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