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Research Report

Muungano nguvu yetu (unity is strength): 20 years of the Kenyan federation of slum dwellers

Kate Lines
Jack Makau
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2017
Pages: 88
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 12-15)

    Slums⁴ occupy just over two per cent of land in Nairobi (MuST, 2014). With densities of up to 300 rooms per acre (CURI, 2012), they are home to half the city’s population. Comparison with the first major slum studies in Kenya in the mid-1990s (Ngau, 1995; Alder 1995) reveals that over the last 20 years, the city space occupied by the poorer half of its population has not increased. While estimates of slum populations in the 1990s and today suggest that Nairobi’s slum population may have doubled, the rate and scale of improvements to living conditions in slums fail to...

  2. (pp. 16-33)

    Urban spatial segregation is not a recent phenomenon in Kenya. In Nairobi, development was inequitable from the start; the most visible manifestation being racially-segregated colonial residential patterns (Olima, 2001). Exclusive European residential areas were separated from those for the Asian population living and working near the railway station. The few Africans permitted in early Nairobi lived in the east in basic housing or shanty villages (ibid.). Future city growth was set in this mould: after Kenyan independence in 1963 much of the spatial inequality was maintained, only shifting basis from race to wealth and class (Pamoja Trust, 2009). Autocratic leadership,...

  3. (pp. 34-70)

    This paper explores Muungano’s impact over its 20 years by charting points of contact between the state and Muungano’s approaches to slum problems, and how these have influenced change in policy and practice tangibly in the settlements. This section tracks three areas of correlation, each representing a different facet of Muungano’s achievements to date. Periods described by these three correlations are not discrete, there is much overlap.

    The first covers 1996 to 2003, and concentrates on changes in state attitudes to informality. Muungano’s mobilisation and advocacy in its earliest years was directed at fighting evictions through protest and activism. Around...

  4. (pp. 71-76)

    The key question in the introduction to this paper was: how has Muungano touched on the lives of slum dwellers in Kenya generally, regardless of whether they have ever heard about Muungano or not?

    The question for the conclusion then has to be: if Muungano folded today, would it have done enough?

    In August 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution, ushering in a new political and economic governance system that seeks to strengthen accountability and public service delivery at local levels. Significantly, Article 43(1b) aims to reverse attitudes that have led to exclusion by stating, ‘every person has a right...

  5. (pp. 77-81)

    Social movements emerge to deal with an issue. They sustain over long periods not purely because the issue persists, but because they can change and remain responsive as the issue mutates. As Kenya’s political economy evolves, it exerts a pressure on Muungano to adapt. The movement is also couched within the global urban discourse and is continuously learning and contributing to this agenda – sometimes directly, and sometimes as part the wider SDI network.

    The push to change in Muungano is often intuitive, emanating from the grounding that its leaders have and their continuous interaction with peers across the global...