Monday, August 24th
After church yesterday Abel took me (Craig) to the Ghetto Light under 16 football game. The game was being played on the opposite side of the slum. As we were walking to the game I witnessed the extreme poverty people are experiencing. The walk from Abel’s house in the East of Kibera to the West of Kibera took about a half hour. We walked down dirt roads, alleys, railroad tracks, and piles of trash. The sheer size of the slum is amazing. I was skeptical about there being 900,000 to 1,000,000 people living here, but while we were walking we passed through crowds of children and adults. I received so many “How are you?” statements from children. This must be the first thing they teach children about Muzungus. “Kids, when you see a Muzungu be sure to say, how are you.” I was physically sick to my stomach walking through the slum. I was nauseous because of the living conditions the people were living in and the various smells I was inhaling. There are pools of human waste in-front of businesses and houses. Everyone is walking in trash and feces as they move around their community. The smell of rotting trash and human waste is overwhelming. Most people burn their trash so the fumes from the paper and plastic are strong. We walked through many clouds of burning rubbish piles. We walked passed shacks which were store fronts for butcheries, corn mills, food shops and much more. People were walking from shops holding their live chicken (soon to be dinner) by their wings. I think the chicken had a good sense of what was going to happen next based on the way he was thrashing around. The Kibera slum is truly its own mini city. There are children everywhere. I wonder who takes care of them and who protects them. Many children have major burns and scars on their bodies. I am not sure if the scars are from abuse or natural accidents. They cook on open coal fires with large pots. We have heard stories of people being raped and nobody being brought to justice. When people talk about rape it as almost as if it is just part of life. It seems to be one of those things that just happens over the course of a young girl or woman’s life. People seem to just scrape out a life here and some have it just a little better than others. One of the teens asked Mariella if she would feel safe walking through the community on her own. Mariella responded that she would feel safe walking on her own if she had no valuables with her. The teen said that nobody would steal from her. She asked how he could be sure of that. The teen responded by saying that if someone in the community was caught stealing from her they would be burned (set on fire). We have heard that people take justice in their own hands. As the police are not always helpful and sometimes expect a bribe to do their job. The kids tell us you run from criminals and you also run from the police. Both could shoot you in the back.
Our friend told us a story of how a girl was raped many years ago. Sometime later she confessed what happened as she could not live with the secret any longer. When word got out about who committed the crime he was murdered and place at her doorstep that evening. Justice?
Despite the many horror stories we feel safe here. We see the potential for this country to be so much more than it is. There needs to be a huge change in the moral integrity of the leaders of this country. Corruption is rampant. Tomorrow, the country will have its Census. A lot of the community is upset about this, one of the questions on the Census is regarding tribal association, this is what fueled the post election riots in 2007 and some are afraid a similar thing might happen. Others are annoyed that the government feels a census is what needs to happen, even though it has yet to work through the problems since 2007. There are still thousands, maybe more, who are still displaced, they lost their homes, their land, their businesses, their livestock, and they feel this will be a harsh reminder of that loss. Edith, for example lost everything in 2007, she and her boys escaped Kibera fearing they might be killed, and stayed at a camp. When they returned, they found their home had been emptied; neighbors from other tribes had taken advantage of the situation and had left her family with nothing. She still owns a blue, UNICEF bag that was given to her with some food, slippers and a few toiletries. She feels this census will only remind her of what she once had and what she no longer has. The Census here is quite a different animal than it is in the states. Tomorrow, people in blue and red T-shirts labeled “Enumerator” and “Supervisor” will be walking from home to home with the census which they will fill out as they ask each person in Kenya-craziness. They expect this to take a week, starting Tuesday. The President has explained on the news that it will be declared a national holiday and has asked that everyone stay home and wait to be counted. Pray that this is done in a way that doesn’t reopen wounds and rekindle the flames of hatred between various tribes.