Archives #5/4/16 Bhangladesh 

Not the Country next to India ….. No, this one is a slum in Mombasa Kenya home to about 15,000 residents. I visited the place during a Resettlement Action Plan survey for property and business owners along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway. It was scheduled for expansion and so their property and businesses needed to be valued for compensation because they would be demolished or relocated. 

I first heard of this place in the evening news a few months ago. The news was about an NGO run by a mzungu( white lady), who in  order to help the locals eliviate poverty, she had introduced some mode of payment by the name bhangla pesa. The NGO had been taken to court accused of introducing a currency something that only the government is mandated with.  

One of the property owners, James Omondi explains to me that it’s a voucher and was proven so in court. It’s still being used and even the neighbouring Mikindani estate has introduced its  own- the ngombeni pesa (pesa is the Swahili word for money) 

James Omondi who shares his second name with my baby daddy stays in Mikindani an estate a mile or two  North East of Bhangla (short for bhagladesh)  

We are currently valuing his property, 3doors single roomed mud walled houses.  They were four doors but one fell during the recent heavy downpour.  I can see something that used to be a room filled with mud brought by runoff water with the roof touching the ground.  

It’s a pitiful situation. 

As I look at the shallow hand made drainage furrow all black and dirty coming from the shared bathroom and disappearing beyond the house, am left to wonder how a child can grow up(crawl) in such an environment. He houses are one roomed,  no space to crawl and  play while the outside…. open channels of running sewage. 

The rooms are dark but thanks to a “smart” guy who supplies power from  his connection and charges 200/= per month they are sorted(thought that was the governments job??? ) They draw water from a breather ( connected on the main pipe to release pressure by gushing out air and water) of the main  pipeline running along the main highway. The water collects in a pond which they fetch for use in their homes. 

He’s telling us the story of Bhangla .. (Ouch this silly mosquito is feasting on  me-kill). Most residents are Luhyas,  Luos and Mijikenda, but business owners are Kambas. He says the place is safe because most residents know each other. That they hold community meetings once in a while to address issue  affecting residents.The ODM party,party in opposition rules this place. During the 2007 post election violence the Kambas had to find refuge at the railways police station for they were thought to have voted for the government where as the majority in the slum were in opposition. 

Access to school and hospital is minimal and unemployment is a real problem. And because of this the poverty levels are really high and people do anything to survive. ” Three ladies among those caught on video committing beastility for money afew months ago are from this slum” one  village elder tells us.  Fortunately some have made it out like Omondi’s wife who though having been brought up here is college educated, working and so has moved out of the slum.

The land issues in Bhangladesh and the Coastal region at large need to be resolved. As we carry out our valuation process,  we are not considering the “land owner”for compensation in this slum. In quotes because as much as they own the land physically, legally they do not for they do not have any documents to support their claim. But the fact is they used money to acquire the land.

 Like in the case of James, he bought his property -land and the four single roomed property for 80000 shillings. But will only be compesanted for the building an amount that probably will be less than the above. I do not know who should be blamed, the individuals or the government.
They are but squatters, okay  so whose land is it. Some say the land belongs to Bamburi cement limited others to Kenya railways. People started settling in  many years ago when it was bushy and used as ‘mnazi joint’ (local brew). Still some say that the land belonged to an Arab who left it under the care of a trusted watchman.  After years of him not returning, the watchman subdivided the land and sold it to the current residents of bhangla.  

And that’s  how a slum was born. The bhagladesh slum. 

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