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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
View from a Nairobi slum
The twice daily train service
Kibera has been forgotten by President Moi

On the edge of Nairobi, tucked away like a dirty secret, lies Africa's largest slum.

Called Kibera, it is where almost one million residents live illegally as squatters.

Half the population of Nairobi make their home in this unregulated and forgotten place where generations are growing up in deepening poverty.

Kibera, Nairobi's slum suburb with rubbish piling high
Kibera has no infrastructure
Tens of thousands live in mud houses with no sanitation.

A commuter train does pass through the slum twice a day but there's no platform and no station.

And like the rest of the squatter slum - there is no infrastructure whatsoever.

Open ditches run through the streets between the huts. Mounting heaps of rubbish mix in with the mud and effluent - and as a result the people live in appalling conditions. It is, if you like, the real Nairobi.

It's a world away from the Kenya the tourists see.

No love lost

Not surprisingly there is little love lost here for President Daniel arap Moi who has ruled Kenya for 24 years.

He is an African statesman of the old school and during his rule his government has largely ignored the slum.

Richard Leakey, an anthropologist, civil servant and politician
Leakey: "The country is in a parlous situation"

Isaac Aringa, a slum resident and youth leader, believes things can change for the better.

"If you can get someone who is after the well being of the nation then things can change," says Isaac.

"We still have all the resources, the manpower and pretty good people. We need things like sanitation, water and electricity."

"He [President Moi] has done a lot for his own people", says John Kairyua, another youth leader from Kibera, "but totally nothing for the other people."

But the big news for Kenyans is that President Moi is actually planning to step down within the next few months as the constitution requires.

Chosen candidate

It's a move which a lot of people never expected to see.

President Moi, an old school politician
Moi is backing Uhuru Kenyatta to succeed him
He is, however, working hard to ensure victory for his chosen successor. He's a man called Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president.

It is widely assumed that Uhuru would protect Moi and his family if he won, giving them immunity from prosecution for alleged corruption.

With the power of the state behind him, Uhuru should, in theory win.

But when he mentioned his name at a recent rally the crowd dared to voice their protest.

And the forthcoming election isn't just about one man.

It's about the fate of an entire country. Richard Leakey, an anthropologist, civil servant and politician, has spent his past years fighting for change in Kenya.

But now, he believes, could be a defining moment for the nation.

Kibera, the ever sprawling slum now housing half of Nairobi's population
Kibera residents want change for the better

"In many ways this is probably the most important election we've had," he says.

"The country is in a very parlous situation economically - it's very fragile politically."

"My sense is that it's not so much the replacement of one man, although that is fundamental to the equation, it's the fallout from that change that will see a lot of new people brought in and I think those new people will make an enormous effort to distance themselves from the condition they know that we [Kenya] are in at the moment."

New candidate

One new person is Raila Odinga; the MP for Kibera's slum and he is a serious presidential contender.

Raila Odinga; the MP for the Kibera Slum
Odinga: Popular with Kibera residents

"Since independence very few business structures have been constructed in the town." Mr Odinga points out.

"After independence Nairobi's population of 250,000 has grown to over three million.

"They have no other place [to live] - there has been poor planning and that is the reason why they have not been able to cope with the rate of the population increase."

If Odinga is elected president he says he'll change all that.

But after decades in opposition, including eight years in jail without trial, he knows it won't be easy to prevent President Moi from getting his own way. He's worried the election process will be rigged.

"You cannot force down the thoughts of the people," he says.

"Ultimately I think the will of the people will prevail."

There is a chance with these elections for a fresh start both politically and economically for Kenya however at the same time it is a deeply frustrating country - a land of missed opportunities.

The BBC's Andrew Harding
"Kenya has a chance now to make a new start"
Kenyans choose a new president

Key stories

Inauguration day

Moi steps down




See also:

06 Aug 02 | Africa
29 Jul 02 | Africa
07 Aug 02 | Business
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