Kibera slum home to over 500,000 Nairobi residents is Africa’s biggest slum. 70% of the slum dwellers are mainly the youths who are considered to be the backbone of Nairobi’s urban economy. Only a small percent of the youth, about 9% are employed by the national government of Kenya. Majorities are jobless and a great number are self-employed or engage themselves in pro-productive side hustles.
The slums of Nairobi remain the capital crime centers of the country and Kibera is one of them. A lot are being committed by jobless youths who usually spend the rest of their days at strategic chilling points in the slum known as ‘Jobless Corner’. Here there are many youths, chewing khat; commonly known as ‘miraa’ and smoking bhang seemingly passing the roll to each among them. They don’t seem innocent, but all the same they are youths with dreams and ambitions and some extraordinary non-implemented skills thus leading to do anything not to make ends meet but just to make money.
The many things they can do during the day is sell narcotics; bhang, miraa among others. Some camouflage themselves as tour guides for white people (wazungus) who usually visit the slums for aid purposes just to liaise with police officers and rob the tourist of their belongings and walk away like as if nothing happened, some carry goods locally known as ‘mzigo’ from point A to B but the proceeds will end up in the bhang bases and chang’aa dens of Kibera.
Terror at night
When night falls Kibera is a no-sleep zone for a majority of the youths. What I really mean is this; the youths organize themselves into small groups ready to attack and commit a stream of robberies in the slum codes of the sprawling ghetto city of Kibera and beyond. This has led to many early graves and a lot of dreams have been shattered and buried alive in the utter process. In my stay in Kibera I’ve seen a lot of young men getting lynched because of robbery and a couple others have landed into the wrong hands of the mob justice. And, such occurrences have brought a whole magnitude of shame into the families of the youths involved in crime. The sad part of the story is that the money they get after a series of robbery doesn’t even help them and their every move is a move destined to put their lives into an absolute state of jeopardy.
Room for improvement
There has been room for improvements and rehabilitations for the youths who engage themselves in felonious behaviours. A lot of these young men get arrested but it seems the police cells are their second homes. They’ll get released anyway because at the end of the day, they have to share what they have gotten from their operation with the police. Some reformed robbers have started self-help groups of their own where they plant kales (sukuma wiki), wash cars and keep poultry just to make a clean and honest living because it is through that way that they can only increase their life spans and also have a good social relationships with the people around them and the entire community at large.
Above: Corridors as such are areas prone to daytime mugging and nighttime robbery.
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.