Stuck in Korogocho Conversations

Community Organizations International Community Organizing International

P1010003Nairobi For hours in the morning, Sammy Ndirangu and David Musungu, ACORN Kenya’s organizers in Nairobi working in two villages in the Korogocho slum discussed their work and the issues that members were identifying around health care, education, and housing.  In the afternoon we were joined by the chair of one of the groups, the secretaries of both groups, and another leader to talk more about the areas before we spend the day there tomorrow.  The issues were fascinating because, as always, there seemed to be a different twist and flavor to all of them that intrigued and challenged the campaign planning.

In the whole of Korogocho of 350,000+ people there are no public health or hospital facilities.   There are a couple of private, small clinics, but that’s it.  In our conversation though a public hospital had been approved by the national government and funded over the last 5 years with regular renewals.  The land supposedly has even been built.  Where then is the hospital?  Somehow this was a campaign that was starting after what normally would have seemed the hardest fights:  winning authorization and winning resources.   Here we were stuck in endless conversations, when what the campaign clearly lacked was a little final research and some huge actions holding politicians and others accountable.  Why was this so hard?

We talked about “slum upgrading” being financed by Italy and Kenya for Korogocho.  David commented that there was a lot of tension which was causing delay.  Turned out the landlords had issues because though they DID NOT OWN THE LAND since it was government property, they were used to charging rent for rough shacks and didn’t want to lose out when the governments built decent housing which also allowed folks to own their units after 10 years of payments.  We spent a long time discussing how a membership organization only finds tension when there is a split within its membership.  How could the organization not stand fully with the tenants?

The organizers had found an interesting handle in so called “bursary scholarships” that only worked for poor children coming from public schools, yet it was well known that many were getting scarce scholarship shillings because of political involvement and a lack of transparency.  Benefit campaign, anyone?  Need a scholarship flyers!  Here we come.

All the right work, just too much talk and not enough action!