Headline July 15, 2015/ ''' POOR DONT CRY '''


EVERY DEVELOPING CONTINENT is urbanising. And none faster than Africa. Why? One answer is partly statistical:

Africa has been the slowest to get started. Another is that parts of Africa, such as the Sahel,  have been the affected recently by severe climate change, making marginable land unfarmable.

And in countries like, Angola and Congo years of fighting have propelled millions to the cities. But a fuller explanation is needed. A look at Nairobi, Bangkok, Manila,  Mumbai, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Decca, provides some answers and throws up more questions.

I think people in growing desperation prefer urban squalor to rural hopelessness. Because for many years the biggest city in east Africa, where human life seems to have begun, was not a bad advertisement for the urban condition.

As the capital of Kenya, Nairobi had the subdued bustle of an administrative centre; some industry, hotels for tourists, on their way to and from wildlife safaris, lots of greenery and even a small forest. The population in 1960 was about 250,000. Today the forest remains, but, with 3.5 million people plus.

Nairobi has lost much of its charm. The traffic is awful, as is the crime, and the superlatives are usually reserved for Kibera,  which is supposedly Africa's largest, densest and poorest slum.

It probably is not. Kinshasa, and Lagos, the world's fastest growing megacity, may have slums to match Kibera, whose population is put at anything from 800,000 to 1.8 million, depending mostly on the time of the year -all seasonal migrants.

What makes Kibera unusual is, first, that its 256 hectares  [630 acres] sit right in the middle of Nairobi and, second that it finds itself on the doorstep of Habitat, the U.N's agency for towns and cities, which is based in a campus of bucolic tranquillity not far away.

Accordingly, Kibera gets no end of attention from outsiders, whether governments throwing money at it, NGOs engaged in mapping and studying it, or film stars shooting "The Constant Gardener", Ban Ki moon paid it a visit within a month of becoming the U.N.'s secretary general.       

Most of what makes Kiberia interesting, though, is what it shares with other African slums. The density shacks packed so tightly that many are accessible only on foot; the dust [in the dry seasons] and the mud (when it rains).

The squalor  -you often have to pick your way through streams of black ooze- ; the hazards -low eaves of jagged corrugated iron- ; and the litter, especially the plastic [Kiberia's women, lacking sanitation and fearing robbery or rape-

If they risk the unlit pathways to the latrines, resort at night to the  ''flying toilet'' , a polythene bag to be cast from their doorway, much as chamber pots were emptied into the street below in pre-plumbing Edinburgh.

Most striking of all, to those inured to the sight of such places through photography, is the smell. With piles of human faeces littering the ground and sewage running freely, the terrible stench is ever so present.

But then, Not much, but it's home? : Striking, too, though, is the apparent contentment with which the inhabitants accept their lot. It falls short of cheerfulness, tension is constant in Kiberia, and small incidents can quickly turn very, very nasty.

But most people are busy getting on with life. Churches abound, and schools too. Children play in the dirt or on the railway tracks that bisect the slum. Stall-holders sell their goods. Men, ragged or smartly dressed in dark suits, clean their teeth wherever they can spit.

Indoors, things can be more stretched. On the northern slope of the area known as Soweto East, Josephine Kadenyi lives in a shack three meters square [ten feet by ten feet]. It consists of one room, with a curtain diving it. It has no electricity and no sanitation.

Outside is a vast heap of litter and plastic bags used by children as a lavatory. Just below that,  14 thin water pipes emerge from the ground, bound with sticky tape in a half-successful effort to stem the leaks. Sewage runs alongside. Mrs Kadenyi makes her living by selling uncontaminated water and looking after the disabled child of a neighbour.

In  NGO-speak, Kibera is an ''informal'' settlement. That means it does not officially exist. The government provides nothing. If there are schools, latrines or or washrooms, they are privately run [it costs three shillings, about four American cents, to use the latrines].

The government provides no basic services, no schools, no hospital, no clinics, no running water, no lavatories. It does, however, own nearly all the land, so if you want to put up a shack, you must go to the chief, a civil servant in the provincial government, and get his permission.

 For a consideration, perhaps  5,000 shillings -about $70-  this can be obtained, but you receive no piece of paper, merely an oral consent.

Most shacks are in fact owned by  ''landlords'' , some of them descended from Nubians rewarded by the British for their military service in the first world war with the right of abode in Kibera.

They now jostle with others who have established, through custom, corruption or  force, the right to put up a  ''unit'' . These are then rented out to tenants, who have no rights of any kind. The cost of erecting a shack is recouped with a year or two.

The Honour and Serving of the  ''Environmental Operational Research" continues. Thank you for reading and learning about the state of the world.

With respectful dedication to the Leaders of the Free World.  See Ya all Your Excellencies' on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"' Collaborates "'

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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