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31.12.2006

27// Il pianto dei poveri a Korogocho

di Korogocho Spiritual Leaders Association

 

 

KOROGOCHO SPIRITUAL LEADERS ASSOCIATION

THE CRY OF THE POOR IN KOROGOCHO

“UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN, UNTO US A SAVIOUR IS GIVEN”

OUTLINE

1. POVERTY IN KOROGOCHO

2. DECISION MAKING

3. BASIC COMMODITIES

4. PUBLIC TRANSPORT

5. LAND

6. HOUSE RENTS

7. INSECURITY

8. SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM

9. DANDORA DUMPING SITE

10. CONCLUSION

 

INTRODUCTION

The Korogocho Spiritual Leaders Association (KOSLA) is a union of spiritual leaders namely Pastors, Priests, Bishops, advocating for the rights of the common mwananchi against all kinds of exploitation and manipulation. In this great season of Christmas, as we commemorate the incarnation of our Lord when, prompted by the love He has for humankind, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14), we would like to express what we believe is currently the plight of the poor of Korogocho. All people have a right to live and enjoy God-given natural resources without discrimination regardless of their poverty background. Christmas is a reminder to us that all human beings have dignity since we are all created in the image and likeness of God. God wishes that all enjoy the fruits of the land He gave them and that no one should ever feel a stranger in their own dwelling. Ours is the wish to seek to carry on the mission that Jesus announced (see Luke 4:16-20): to proclaim the Good News to the poor, with all that this Good News implies. In this memorandum, aware of our pastoral obligation and called to proclaim the Good News that brings salvation and genuine freedom to all, we underline the cry of our poor marginalized community in Korogocho slums. We appeal to our beloved Government to countercheck the following areas:

1. POVERTY IN KOROGOCHO

Poverty characterizes the lifestyle of the people in Korogocho. Poverty is inhuman. It means death. Death caused by hunger and sickness. People are hungry since they cannot afford to buy food for their lives. People cannot afford to pay for the their own medical bills. The majority live in abject poverty. Those employed count on a monthly remuneration that ranges between Kshs 2400 – 5000. These salary scales cannot permit savings given the living standards of our times. Hence, whatever is remunerated goes from ‘hand to mouth’ as is commonly put. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Are the people in authority not guilty of this situation? Or should we say it is a curse from God? Contemplating the Christmas festive, is this the house we are preparing for our Lord?

The natural resources are a free gift to all from the Creator. Everyone has a right to enjoy and use them improve their lives. But it is sad to note that the natural resources are not evenly shared. There are people, most of whom are in authority, who believe that it is their right and mission to amass as much property as possible. That the natural resources are property of a chosen few. With this situation we have before us the gap between the rich and the poor widening. The rich become richer while the poor become poorer. Honestly this is not the state in which God wishes the earth to be. It is not what God had in mind when He said “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on earth” (Genesis 1:28).

To improve this state it is absolutely vital for the rich and the poor to come together and seed how best the natural resources can be shared. This coming together would guarantee the creation of a world where everyone feels at home and there will be no one lacking in anything (See Acts 4:32). The rich and the poor need each other. No one should be used as a stepping stone for the other’s success, neither directly nor indirectly. This is both immoral and unjust. It is immoral to buy the poor person’s vote, exploiting their ignorance and desperate situation, with just a kilo of sugar. As spiritual leaders we disown and condemn this malicious trend.

2. DECISION MAKING

God blessed them saying: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on earth” (Genesis 1:28).

The poor have a God-given right to participate in deciding on issues that touch common interest. They have a right to contribute directly or by representation to the cultural, economic, political and social life of the civil community to which they belong. This right is not restricted only to a certain class of people, namely, the haves. We note with shame and sadness that the decisions are restricted to the discernment and will of a few: the powerful. This is very unfair given that this country belongs to all and not just a chosen few. The poor common people have no say in their own Government. They are refugees and aliens in their own country. We all need to have a say in decision-making. The people have to be really represented by someone in Parliament.

3. BASIC COMMODITIES

Hear this you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat …add to the shekel and fix our scales for cheating!” (Amos 8:5)

The uncontrollable continuous rise of prices of the basic commodities is a concern for the religious leaders in Korogocho. It is sad to note that the law always favors those who exploit the poor. The most heavily taxed are the common poor folks. Selling Sukuma Wiki along the slum streets, one is taxed Kshs 50 every week by the authorities while the MPs hike their salaries any time they wish to do so.

Regarding the prices of goods we ask: who regulates the prices of the basic commodities? Where is the poor person’s shop? The basic commodities – sugar, maize flour, baking flour, kerosene (fuel) and all other food consumptions have been subject to a tremendous hike. The hiking is done by the wholesalers and retailers who never have in mind the consumer but only their profits. To site an example, currently a kilo of sugar that used to cost Kshs 50 by the end of November this year, now costs Kshs 100 (double the price). Kenya has become a country where prices are determined by individuals without any common reasonable criteria that considers the common citizen. And that can neither be questioned nor challenged. Dare to challenge that the response will always be that buying is an option to be taken or left out. This is because you are not the only buyer. There is someone behind you who can afford what you cannot afford since their pockets are “fuller” than yours. What counts is not the citizen but the money that comes from the citizen. Neither a leader from the Government nor a member of Parliament has openly stood up to condemn this hike. One can rightly say that they have no reason to lose their sleep for the poor fellow’s plight given that some of them have already secured a one year’s stock.

Contrary to this situation businesses should be characterized by their capacity to serve the common good of society through the production of useful goods and services. A business’ objective must be met in economic terms and according to economic criteria, but the authentic values that bring about the concrete development of the person and the society must not be neglected. All those involved in business must ensure that the community in which they work represents a good for everyone and not a structure that permits the satisfaction of someone’s merely personal interests. As it creates situations favorable to the free exercise of the economic activity, the State must be inspired by the principle of solidarity and establish limits for the autonomy of the parties to defend those who are weaker. We are appealing to our beloved President his Excellency Mr. Mwai Kibaki to intervene so as to ensure that this abuse is checked. He is the father of our nation! Where are you Mr. President? The poor people are dying without mercy in our own country!

4. PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Transport is a basic need for our people of Korogocho. People move to their places of work to earn a living or to look for a job. The poor are the victims of the messed up circumstances of the Public transportation system in Kenya. Recently we have witnessed a tremendous rise in bus fares. Fares from Kariobangi to the City Center that used to be Kshs 20 per person now range between Kshs 30-40 per person. These rates vary depending on the weather. When it rains they double to between Kshs 50-70 per person. Being the order of the day the poor hopeless person has no say on that. The only option left is either to board the matatu or take the commonly known “route eleven” vis-à-vis “twanga mguu” (an expression meaning “to go on foot”).

Traveling upcountry is another hell. Fares vary during the time of the year. During the public holidays bus fares go up to Kshs 1000 where one normally pays between Kshs 400-500. Salaries remain unchanged despite this increment. If one thinks of improving the poor person’s salary it would be by 5%. Our question is: who regulates and controls public transportation? Does the law exist in this area? And if it does, which are the signs of its presence?

5. LAND

The reality of our people is marked by a poverty which we can call inhuman and anti-evangelical. Land in the Bible is an object of a promise of life; one’s own land where the children of God are habitants and not strangers. A strange land is the place of injustice and death. The people of Korogocho live as strangers. They live on Crown land that will never be theirs if things continue the way they are. Moreover 80% of the population pay high rent illegally to structure owners for the poor shacks where they live.The Government is reluctant to organize a land tenure system whereby everyone can get their dew. This is a system that is specifically put to maintain the poor at bay. We don’t see any efforts to improve the situation despite many years of struggle. Who really owns the land of Korogocho? Who is gaining?

6. HOUSE RENTS

The vast majority of the people in Korogocho live in make-shift residences or in huge complexes of crumbling and unsafe houses. Rents are hiked by the landlords at their own pleasure. The same landlords can also evict the tenants at will. Our emphasis on corruption from the top level has made us overlook whatever is going on down here in the world of the poor person. The common voiceless poor people are subjected to manipulation, exploitation and intimidation. We extend our invitation to the senior government officials and the government’s spokesman to pay a visit in the slums and see for themselves what the common people are going through.

The structures in which people live are not structures for human residence. Despite the rents being hiked, the iron sheets are rotten and leaking. Dare address this issue, you will be asked to quit. You call this life? Who will save the common poor mwananchi? It is necessary to offer choices of decent housing where the people are directly involved in the process.

7. INSECURITY

Insecurity has subjected people to a life of fear. Security’s reinforcement is the Government’s and the community’s prerogative. True! The thugs spotted out in the community are in one day put in then the next day released only to continue harming the community further. Who is the custodian of the security? To whom should we address this issue? The lynching of our young people due to theft and robbery is not a scenery pleasing to our eyes. Law and order should be reinforced and its following ensured by respective stakeholders.

8. SUBSTANCE ABUSE

We have witnessed a great increase of the illicit brew. Active players in this area are mostly young people who engage in drinking “chang’aa,” sniffing glue and using other drugs that actually destroy the body and the community. These activities bring on board sexual immoralities, robberies and all sorts of ugly happenings. While it is true that the police are deployed everywhere and have all the necessary information regarding drug abuse and illicit brew, the ugly reality is that so far no action has been taken. Where are we heading to? What leads, in most cases, to our young people getting involved in these self-destructive activities is dropping out of school due to poverty, inability to face the challenges of life serenely, idleness to name just a few. Can we really talk of Government alternatives to empower young people in the slums? Is the Government really unable to empower young people to face the basic challenges of life?

9. THE DANDORA DUMPING SITE

The Dandora dumping site next to Korogocho is actually hazardous to human health. Over 1 million people are victims of the presence of this dumping site at its present location. Many people have lost their lives due to different kinds of diseases most of which being respiratory related, as a result of working in this environment which does not favour at all human living standards. The security also is at stake given that the dumping site is a haven for organized crime groups who threaten the peace and security of the poor. As Pastors, we have held a number of meetings with different Government officials on the subject but action has yet to be taken. We have produced a memorandum in which there is information from the Ministry of Health shown the health hazard, prompted by the dumping site. Recently we have also had the visit of the Minister of Environment Hon. Kivuta Kibwana who had promised stern action towards the relocation of the dumping site to be effected in stages. We hope that this promise will not only be empty promises but real concern for the poor. Assistance should be given to the people working there and better alternatives which ensure dignified ways of earning a living. Being poor and in search of cash does not by any means eliminate your dignity.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, ours is the hope that an affirmative action will be taken by the Government to rethink the governing system of the country otherwise they stand responsible for whatever is taking place. The Government was elected for a new beginning and as a transforming agent. God offers us a real possibility of overcoming evil and attaining good. Christian hope lends great energy to commitment in the social field, because it generates confidence in the possibility of building a better world, even if there will never exist “a paradise on earth.” We extend our invitation to all to participate in the World Social Forum scheduled from the 19th to the 25th January 2007 at Moi International Sports Center Kasarani. This is not an economic forum, but a moment where simple people from all over the world come together to propose and implement ways in which a better world can be built without stepping on someone’s rights. We always need others to work for justice. Alone we cannot. We would like to propose the principles and values that can sustain a society worthy of the human person. Among these principles, solidarity includes all the others. Light is shed on this principle by the primacy of love. Love must be present in and permeate every social relationship. In order to make society more human, more worthy of the human person, love in social-political, economic and cultural sphere must be given renewed value, becoming the constant and highest norm of all activity. Only love can completely transform the human person. In this season of Christmas, with the birth of Christ, hope is born in the midst of suffering: it takes the form of life that comes through death. Its ultimate motivation is found in the living God, the God of tender love, who stoops to us in our suffering, our faith, and our efforts to be in solidarity with the poor of Korogocho and to win their liberation. Thanks to this hope, which our people experience in the midst of suffering, our people can walk before the Lord like those who do so in the land of the living (Psalm 116:9).

As we extend our best wishes to all for the coming New Year 2007, we wish that the recent violence in some of our slums (Kibera, Mathare etc.) will be a scenary not to be repetead. As we approach the Kenya General Election 2007 the campaigns of our politicians should not be through incitement. We don’t want to see violence and blood. Our wish is that all work in solidarity and unity to build a nation that is home for all.Mungu awabariki.

THE KOROGOCHO SPIRITUAL LEADERS ASSOCIATION

(KOSLA)

1. Pastor Elly Ochieng - Grace Given Church

2. Bishop Silvanus Olonde - Christ Doctrine Church

3. Fr. Daniele Moschetti - St.John Catholic Church

Fr. Paolo Latorre - St. John Catholic Church

Fr. John Webotsa - St. John Catholic Church

4. Bishop Caleb Alingo - Glory Church

5. Mwalimu Joannes Odhiambo - Lejio Mariae

6. Bishop William Okiya - Maranatha Church

7. Bishop Samuel Oduk - Ema Ministry

8. Pastor Philippe Odando - Israel Ninive Church

9. Pastor Erastus Omukangu - Rehema Church

10. Pastor James Mburu - Tumaini Church

11. Captain Aggrey Otieno - Anglican Church

12. Pastor Cristine Atieno - Faith of the Apostles

13. Pastor Kiatu - Baptist Church

14. Pastor Joseph Ochieng - Jerusalem Church

15. Pastor Paul Gathiru - Wakorino Church

16. Pastor Nicholas Agisah - Compassion Ministries

17. Pastor Michael Omondi Oyiera - Christian Family Ministry Kenya

18. Pastor George Obange - Faith Baptist

19. Pastor Charles Akir - Five Fold Ministries

20. Pastor Samson james Odhiambo - Pentecostal Revival Church Korogocho

27 December 2006 Saint John Evangelist

 

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