Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Sounds Big, But Is It?

The East African Standard reports that the Kenyan government will spend "a whopping Sh880 billion [approximately $11 billion] to upgrade all slums and informal settlements in the country." This could be a great thing, if done right. But financing and exact plans for improving the shantytowns and squatter areas are sketchy. A long-planned effort to upgrade a tiny sliver of Kibera has taken three years already and no housing has yet been built. It's still unclear who will live in the new buildings, who will own the new housing, and whether everyone in the affected community, called Soweto Village, will gain. That doesn't bode well for the proposal.

Also, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki faces a political crisis over his planned new consititution (his proposal would enable him to continue to hold tremendous centralized power) and one of his most powerful allies, Roads Minister Raila Odinga, who represents Kibera in Parliament, has announced that he will run against Kibaki in the next Presidential contest. So this could just be a political promise, with no real weight behind it.

But we can hope it's real, and done right, with democratic participation and decision-making by the squatters.

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