slum politics

The just released results of the 2009 population census dethrones Kibera from the dubious status of Africa’s largest slum. The figures are much lower than most analysts believe. Only 170,070 people live in the slum. This compared to the oftentimes cited figure of close to a million. The total population of the immediate Nairobi area is 3.1 million.The Nation adds:

“Erasing the Kibera lie from history will need one enormous eraser. The lie has been fed to all, from poor residents of the slum who have since grown accustomed to flashing camera lights from tourists taking shots of “the biggest slum in Africa,” to schoolchildren who cram the lie everyday in geography classes.”

More interestingly…

“According to a UN report, over 90 per cent of Kibera residents pay an estimated Sh4.5 billion every year to the real owners of Kibera. This makes the Kibera a sociological paradox-a slum to the poor, a gold mine to the rich.”

And it is not just slum lords who are benefiting from Kibera’s title of biggest slum in Africa. Aid workers Easterly where are you? are also having a field day:

“there are between 6,000 and 15,000 community-based organisations working in Kibera. That is one charitable organisation for every 15 residents of Kibera. Throw in an estimated 2,000 governmental organisations, and you get a rough idea exactly how the billions of shillings pumped into “the biggest slum in the world” are spent.”

kagame on the ropes

I respect all that Paul Kagame has done for Rwanda. Under his leadership the country appears to have survived the 1994 catastrophe, emerging as the least corrupt and one of the fastest growing economies in the region. But like most autocrats, Mr. Kagame has had his dark side. A damning UN report apparently documents atrocities committed by Rwandan troops in eastern Congo. The just concluded general election in the mountainous central African nation has also exposed the former rebel’s anti-democratic tendencies and intolerance of any form of opposition. It is slowly emerging that not even the much praised and disciplined Mr. Kagame is immune to the most common disease afflicting most autocrats: believing that they are God’s gift to their people and therefore have the right to do whatever they want with their power.

I have not read the entire UN report but for more on it check out Texas in Africa.

food riots in mozambique

The BBC reports that at least 10 people have died following food riots in a number of urban centres in Mozambique. The Southern African nation has witnessed a 20% increase in the price of bread in the last several days which precipitated the riots. Russia’s ban on wheat exports after fires burned a significant proportion of its crop has caused a global hike in wheat prices leading to a corresponding increase in bread prices. Most African countries (including Kenya where the price of wheat has appreciated quite a bit) will continue to see increases in prices of basic commodities such as bread and baking flour due to their heavy dependence on wheat imports.

Food insecurity, fueled primarily by distortionist policies, continues to be a major challenge to many African states. The model adopted by Malawi – which is fast turning into a regional breadbasket – is taking slower than it ought to to spread within the region, especially in light of the current population growth trends (Kenya, for instance, is growing by 1 million souls a year).

al-bashir and the ugly truth

August 27th was the day Kenyans founded their second republic. Having woken up early to watch the festivities on tv I was rather surprised to see Sudan’s president Bashir ushered onto the dais by tourism minister Najib Balala. Subsequently members of parliament, the government and Kenya’s civil society started pointing fingers and expressing dismay over the decision to invite the genocidaire president. The international community – through the UNSC – also condemned the decision to host al-Bashir, a man wanted by the ICC for the most heinous crime under international law: genocide.

Kenya’s Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula defended the decision citing regional security concerns. I must admit that I sort of bought his story. Even Southern Sudan’s envoy in Nairobi – speaking with Jeff Koinange on K24’s Capital Talk – seemed to buy Mr. Wetangula’s assertion that the realities of maintaining peace in the region demanded that al-Bashir not be isolated. Like the envoy I am hopeful that Nairobi will get concessions from Khartoum with regard to the implementation of the CPA, most crucially on the holding of the secession referendum scheduled for early January 2011.

That said, president Bashir should not be allowed to get away with the murder of more than 200,000 Darfuris. He may have considerable leverage now by threatening to reignite violence in Southern Sudan but this is a card that he can only play for so long.