Local2Global Advocates for Food Sovereignty

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nairobi: An example of the worst Humanity has to Offer; Racism, Class Division, Mysogyny and a War Against the Youth

Okay, here is the scoop on Nairobi so far. It is a perfectly hateful example of the worst humanity has to offer: racism, deep class divisions , and misogyny. A small percentage of foreigners, ex patriots, European, Asian, Middle Eastern descendants and some black Africans living a vaulted lifestyle, driving big cars(on bad roads) living in villas with servants, (virtual slaves) while most people, black Africans, 70 % live in the slums.

Nairobi has the largest slum in the world, Kibiera. 53% of all Africans live in slums, the greatest percent of any continent's people living in slums.

The situation of slum dwellers ranges from pitiful, with no city services, living in sewage, no security, subject to rapes, no latrines, no access to education, to a more middle class kind of poverty with intact families, food, and education up until college and a beautiful community life. One young woman at one of the homes in the slum we visited where the grandfather raised dairy cows told us "How loving people were in the slums." Other parts of the slum were very insecure. (Her grandfather raised his dairy cows in the slum with zero grazing; he went out everyday to harvest grass and a certain kind of green for them that grew near his home by chance. He sold milk from these cows and made enough to pay school fees for primary and secondary school for his granddaughter. He was an amazing person. He couldn't afford college, so his granddaughter was "waiting" to go to college) .

The slums are covered with garbage. There is garbage everywhere.

Wages are low and jobs are scarce. The small percentage of people who get jobs work hard for $5.00 a day, 6 days a week, with no benefits of any kind or rights to decent working conditions; it is virtual slavery. The only reason people do it is because they don't have a choice.

Many people are engaged in small cottage industries that afford them a life in the better part of the slum, called the ghetto. I myself grew up in a ghetto in the United States. I didn't know it was a ghetto but I could feel the oppression and sensed, at an early age, that something was very wrong with a world, where hard working people could not get ahead.

Nairobi is the most hateful city I have ever lived in except for my visits to South Africa where the division and class prejudice and racism is yet worse. Kansas City is bad with its segregation and racism, but Nairobi is yet worse.

I could sugar coat it for you, but the situation is bad and this is pretty much the case throughout East Africa although the class division may be deeper and more striking in Nairobi with all the expatriates living here working for the UN and foreign NGOs.

Climate change is making things worse and one of the factors making livelihoods in the rural areas no longer tenable and forcing people to move to the city. With the industrialized countries only increasing, rather than reducing their emissions which are causing global warming, I predict the situation here is going to get worse, not better.

More people will be forced from rural areas to the cities or die. There are no jobs in the cities and no city services.


What is the root cause of this misery? World domination and exploitation of Africa and Africans, facilitated as well by some Africans getting paid a lot of money for being puppets of the world powers and threatened with assassination and coup's if they don't play their part. The riches of Africa lie in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East and the hands of a small percentage of Africans, while most people here struggle to survive and are used as a cheap source of servant labor.
A small percentage make it out to a solid middle and upper middle class life and others manage to immigrate off this sinking boat. But most will not make it. The picture is bleak for Africa and Africans.

4 comments:

  1. Your portrayal of the "sinking boat" that you feel is Kenya, and of Africa's "bleak future" is not only completely biased, uninformed and reactionary, it is also incredibly insulting to African people.
    Maria, May I ask how long you spent in Nairobi and how many people you actually got to know there? Nairobi is - in addition to the totally negative and somewhat misleading points you made - a thriving metropolis absolutely bursting with talented, brilliant, creative educated African people. Nairobi has a very active intellectual community (both within the academy and at the grassroots community level), a great night life (and not just at expensive clubs) and is in many ways really making things happen. And in response to your evaluation that Nairobi is segregated: Kenya was a settler colony and this legacy lives, yes. But I also wonder if you understand the segregation there. How much of it is economic and even self-imposed rather than the overt discriminatory racial segregation that exists most obviously in South Africa and the United States. I take issue to your portrayal of Black Kenyans as all impoverished and helpless victims of a segregation that leaves them in the slums while the White minority live in mansions. Despite very real problems with poverty and underdevelopment, Kenya, and Nairobi in particular, has a large Black middle and elite class - Kenyans are moving and shaking. And despite lasting legacies of racism and inequality, Nairobi is also a place of very obvious interethnic and intercultural community and cooperation - especially in the younger generations of people - and if you did not witness or experience that I wonder where you were staying and who you know? Your evaluation of Nairobi is irritatingly typical of other "reviews" by Americans: condescending, ill-informed, unapologetically biased, and fatalistic. Despite the massive weight of so many (ongoing) historical and entrenched systemic roadblocks to their survival and success, many Africans are striving, surviving and thriving, and the one thing the many who are suffering and struggling do not need, is even one more second of the condescending, misguided pity of foreigners.

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  3. By the way, I live in Nairobi and work in Mathare slum interviewing and listening to the 70% of Nairobi's people who live there.

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  4. Thanks for your comments. I am sorry you did not have the courage to sign them. The statistics speak for themselves as do the people in the slums where I have been working and interviewing people. 70% of Nairobians live in the slums. That makes the middle and upper classes no more than approximately 30% of Nairobian society and yes there is a middle and upper class.There is also a wonderful community life in some parts of the slums where most Nairobians live.

    If you are lucky enough to be in the minority that does not live in the slums in Nairobi good for you but that does not deny the reality.

    Nor does it deny the reality that global warming unabated and caused by the industrialized countries is predicted to wipe out 80% of Sub Saharan Africa's agriculture and people.

    Out of respect for the 70% of Nairobians suffering in silence and indignity, with no latrines, subject to rape, no fess for education, and despair, while a small percent live in luxury and paying little for the hard labor of those Nairobians lucky enough to get a job, maybe $5.00 a day, I stand by my statements.

    I don't understand how telling what is statistically known about exploitation, poverty and injustice is insulting to Africans. Ignoring it is what is insulting to those people who live it every day.

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