ACHOLA ROSARIO PAYS TRIBUTE TO NAIROBIANS FOR REVIVING THE HISTORICAL ‘KAMUKUNJI GROUNDS‘
By Achola Rosario, Contributing Editor at www.ATCNews.org
(Posted 08th May 2021)
The assumption that people of lower income status do not care to live in nice and clean environments is more pervasive than most would care to admit. This kind of thinking is not only demeaning, it is dangerous, as places meant for the greater good and for public use get neglected from funding and care to the point that they become menaces to society. And that is exactly what happened to Kamukunji Historical Park in Nairobi’s Eastlands. This is until 6 months ago, when residents got so fed up of being mugged, raped and stabbed, they literally took matters into their own hands.
The birthplace of multiparty politics in Kenya as well as the commercial trade revolution that is Gikomba Market, apparently the largest market for second hand clothes and goods in East and Central Africa, Kamukunji Historical grounds is undergoing a revitalization at the hands of local residents, eco-warrior youth and ex-convicts. They are all volunteering their time to clean up, plant, patrol and build what is now slowly returning to Green Park Status.
I was invited to witness the transformation by Josephat Karomi, the chairperson of the community-based organization whose intense lobbying is leading the restoration of this park. Born and raised in the area, a tall handsome ex-footballer and welterweight boxer, he told me of his life of petty crime with his friends when they were younger, and he refused to let his life go the way of some of his friends, who got involved in the deeper life of darkness. Instead, he has become a community champion, roping in his friends and colleagues into putting in place the best practices they learned from Mustard Seeds C.B.O. in Dandora, the Public Spaces Network project that the FOMO Travel Show documented a few episodes ago.
In just 6 months, from October last year, the giant sisal bushes where bags of knives were kept hidden, used for stabbing workers off to Industrial Area have disappeared, with one neatly trimmed spiked giant staying on as a reminder of how far the park has come. Junkies and prostitutes have been replaced by young men and women diligently cleaning their stock of second-hand shoes for sale in the market across the river, and factory workers from industrial area taking a short siesta after lunch. A baby plays in the newly created pathway behind her mother who is sitting in the grass behind a trimmed bush enjoying the cooling breeze. And local council meetings take place under the shade of a tree seedling, of which they are shocked at the speed of its growth. They planted it when they started the first garden, the one near the sealed-off exits for increased security.
None of this was possible 6 months ago. And even the area CDF chiefs are highly impressed. Knife crime in the park, which used to rate at 10 stabbings per-week on average have completely stopped. The “thugs” who used to terrorize the place for money are now taking pride in cleaning it for free. And new heroes are emerging every day, namely K.E.C.C. (Kamukunji Environmental Conservation Champions) Fatima Wanjiru, Hussein Salim, and the man on the ground coordinating all volunteers and security Denis Wise Odhiambo. The transformation in security would not have been possible without the intimidating supervision of Mzee MASAAI, known only by one name, because Legends always are.
What I witnessed touched my heart, especially when one sees how far they still have to go. The Nairobi river pollution by the passing traffic and by the market is hindering progress both in the environmental cleanup and in security as it offers wrong-doers an escape avenue. Therefore, the KECC volunteers are requesting the county government and the local business community to help them erect a wall on the bank of the market, to protect the river from the overflow of rubbish created by the immense trade, traffic and general lack of hygiene from the market. They have already created a Mental Health spot near the river in recognition for the need for psychological community healing in these COVID unemployment times, therefore the onus is on the local business community and government to give back and top up on their efforts.
Josephat is keen to stress that the District Commission, in the form of Shauri Moyo DCC Chief Mme Julia Kamwara and her deputy Mr Bernard Musau have personally contributed to the regeneration project in the form of time and materials, as well as licenses, manpower and legal help from the local Environment office. This is a clear demonstration that with clear hope and real action, even the mountain can come to Moses.
And the residents of Shauri Moyo Kamukunji district had themselves a lovely Labour Day weekend in the green and joyful park, enjoying the fruits of their voluntary endeavors and grateful for another lovely sunset.
If you also want to be a part of the transformation and have materials, plants, gardening/carpentry & building skills or anything you care to give (including your time), please contact:
KECC Field Coordinator Denis Wise:
KECC Chairperson Josephat Karomi:
To watch THE FOMO TRAVEL SHOW EP66:
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