Bryan's View: Illegal and Dangerous Electricity in Kibera

Note from Krista:  I may have spent time in Kibera, but the truth is I don't know what it is like to live there. To grow up there. So we welcome Bryan - a lifelong Kibera resident - and his weekly posts to shed some light to what life is like in Kibera - written right from Kibera! This is where so much of our jewelry come from - and as you read his posts weekly, I'm sure you will recognize why we are so passionate about empowering the men and women there through job creation! Thank you Bryan for sharing your insights through word and photos!

Its 7:30 pm and Kibera is shining brightly, Thanks to the numerous projects started by the government and some non-governmental organizations to light and enhance security in Kibera.

About 30% of the people living in Kibera have legal electricity inside their homes which is mostly provided by Kenya Power- Kenya’s sole distributor of electricity. Majority of the slum dwellers though, run their businesses using illegal electricity which is usually tapped from the main power grid and passed underground or above the skyline of Kibera. The supply is passed from one house to the other and more than 30 houses can be connected to electricity that is meant for only one person.

Illegal electricity connections in Kibera has both negatives and positives but definitely the negatives outnumber the positives. Residents find it cheap to pay for the illegal connections because it’s only 300 shillings (approx. $3-4) per month no matter how you use it. That’s one positive that most residents in Kibera usually embrace about their illegal connections. Majority of people who have electricity in their homes don’t know that they are having it in an illegitimate manner what really matters to them and to the suppliers is the money.

For many years electric fires have been commonplace in Kibera because of the illegal connections, this is so because most electric wires usually hang loosely above the ground or protrude from the iron sheet rooftops of Kibera. Once the wires have found anything conductive then they can abruptly start up a fire. Many people have lost properties worth thousands of shilling and in extreme cases lives have also been lost because of the problem brought about by the unlawful connection of electricity to the slum. Most wires that supply electricity to the houses in Kibera usually lack an insulator to cover them up thus capable of inducing an electric shock to whoever gets in contact with them. Residents’ especially small children who are very playful are usually caught unawares of these naked electric wires and they would be victims to electrocution.

Nothing is being done for now so as to curb with the rising cases of electrocution and electric fires. The residents of Kibera don’t want the illegal connections removed because they believe that once they are disconnected then they would have to pay more for electricity and most of them are low income earners.

Some run businesses that use large amounts of electric currents like movie cinemas, barber shops, salons, and music and movies stores. Kibera residents will continue to enjoy their illegal connections and whenever a power dealer faces a hitch in low power voltage or frequent outage then they can swiftly change their electric cables and wires to the second line. Most of these local power dealers have zero knowledge about electric watts and voltage and they would brazenly strive to endanger the lives of innocent unsuspecting slum dwellers with their illegal supply of electricity from point A to B.

Bryan Jaybee was born and raised in Kibera slums where he still resides. He is 22 years old and a journalism student at Multimedia University of Kenya, currently in his final year. Bryan will be sharing an insider’s view on life in Kibera every Tuesday on our blog with his photos and words. You can follow Bryan on instagram at @kiberastories for daily posts on life in Kibera. 



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