Amnesty International begins visit to Kenya with the marginalised

Amnesty International’s Secretary General kicked off her first high level mission in Kenya on Monday with visits to two informal settlements in Nairobi – a city in which almost two million people live in slums. Surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic school children at Glory School in Korogocho slum, Irene Khan launched the first action under Amnesty International’s new global Demand Dignity campaign. Ms Khan asked settlement residents to tell the Kenyan government what dignity and housing rights mean to them via a free SMS service. “We want school!” chorused the children throwing their hands in the air. Community members from Korogocho and Kibera slums told stories, sang songs and used street theatre performances to illustrate the human rights violations they face everyday as slum residents. “The development of slums in urban areas has become the iconic symbol of the forgotten, marginalised people – excluded not only from basic services like sanitation, but also from the decision making that takes place even in their own lives,” said Ms Khan. In the settlements, children play in muddy streams which run through narrow passageways, while pathways are littered with garbage, animal and human waste. Overcrowding in Kibera – Africa’s largest slum – is a huge problem with more than 800,000 people living on 250 hectares Many of the informal settlement residents described the insecurity associated with slum-life. In Korogocho, Ms Khan met with Mama Franco, a mother of three, who recently lost her few personal possessions in a house fire started by the paraffin lamp she uses as she has no electricity supply. Mama Franco is one of an estimated 127,000 poor Kenyans who face losing their homes in a planned river clean up programme. Glory School – attended by 500 pupils – is also threatened with destruction. Few details are available on the specifics of proposed river evictions, leaving residents in constant fear of forcible eviction. Ms Khan also spoke with Jocelyn Kemuto Nkykooyo, a woman living with HIV/AIDS, who lost her home and was later abandoned by her husband. Jocelyn now faces missing out on a government slum upgrading project because it was her husband who was registered for the programme, not her. Amnesty International’s first Demand Dignity campaign action seeks to empower people living in poverty and take their voices to the highest level of government.