Originally published: https://www.matharesocialjustice.org/mathare-green-movement/the-mathare-local-peoples-assembly/

14 December 2023 | Wavinya Kavinya and Waringa Wahome, Mathare Social Justice Centre

The Mathare Local People’s assembly was convened at the Mathare People’s Park, and brought together community members and actors from across our struggles to identify various societal issues we are facing.

The Mathare People’s park is a transformed green space that was initially a garbage site, and which now hosts the Ukombozi Library, a children’s playing space, and a community park that offers the community food and a serene environment. It has also transformed young people from drug use and crime, and offered a sustainable form of economic livelihood through activities such as animal rearing and other methods of farming.

Our assembly was influenced by the urgency to explore an inclusive alternative model that involves the community in addressing its challenges.

For a while, various societies have seemed to confront these challenges at an organizational or an individual level. The objective of the local assembly was to transform the culture of personal alienated approaches which have proven to be ineffective. The assembly also wanted to further grassroots democracy and power to the people.

Mathare happens to be one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, and is suffering from a myriad of social problems including: widespread poverty, lack of basic commodities, crime and chronic unemployment. All of these factors also lead to other grave problems.

The assembly brought 100 participants drawn from the six wards in Mathare, including Kiamaiko, Mlango Kubwa, Mabatini, Kiamaiko, Ngei and 3C.

The participants included children, local community groups, ecological justice organizations, students and elders. Among the grassroots organizations present were the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), Ghetto Farmers, and Green Park and Mathare Community Park members.

Other participants who joined the discussions emanated from the different social movements in Nairobi.

After the introduction of the local assembly’s concept, the participants engaged in a general analysis of the Mathare society; the historical injustices and the current political and social conditions. Thereafter, the members joined the various thematic groups influenced and adopted by the assembly. These are:

  1. The Ecological and Political Committee
  2. The Drugs and Crime Committee
  3. The Waste Management Committee
  4. The Water & Sanitation Committee

The thematic groups appointed a moderator and secretary, collectively examined the situation, and generated a list of possible solutions to explore. Below are the results from the committees:

Water and Sanitation Committee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • The rationing and diversion of water in areas like Mlango Kubwa where water is diverted to Eastleigh
  • Water-borne diseases
  • Poor healthcare infrastructure
  • Effluent and affluent discharges: Mathare Hospital, for example, was seen to emit its waste directly into the river. Also, most of Eastleigh waste is poured directly into the river
  • Corruption and water cartels
  • Leaking sewers
  • Poor waste disposal methods
  • Poor housing, and people are constructing homes on the river.

Proposed way forward

  • Participate in public participation sessions e.g. budget making processes
  • Develop petitions to conduct an inquiry on water institutions in Mathare
  • Policy development
  • Creating awareness through community dialogues
  • Mapping of polluters
  • Consistent stakeholders meetings

Waste Management Committee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • Poor waste disposal
  • Lack of awareness on waste management strategies
  • Lack of collaborations and coordination between stakeholders in waste management
  • Government lacked policies, incentives on waste management

Proposed solutions

  • Creating waste management awareness programs
  • Focus on existing networks to build and strengthen ecological network
  • Establish local waste management plans and strategies
  • Include children in waste management projects

Drugs and Crime Commitee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • Poverty which leads to crime, drug abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Addiction

Solutions proposed

  • Organize campaigns and seminars against drugs and crime
  • Involvement of different stakeholders in the campaign against drugs and crime
  • Establish local committees to fight against drugs and crime
  • Establish learning facilities for children, like local libraries
  • Creating of co-curriculum activities such as sports and art

Ecological and Political Committee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • Existing ecological injustices and pollution.
  • State violence including:
    1. Harassment.
    1. Extra-judicial executions.
    1. Land grabbing.
    1. High level of unemployment leading to crime
  • Lack of political accountability.
  • Existing gaps in policy development

Solutions and way forward

  • Establish sustainable sources for economic activity for the youth
  • Establish public assemblies as institutions to generate solutions for local problems
  • Intensify political education in the parks and in community centres

Proposed collective way forward

  1. Establish the Mathare Ecological Justice Network, involving various community parks, which will in turn aid in:
    • Creating a sustainable base for young people through economic generating activities like farming and seed nurseries
    • Engage more children in the parks — perhaps an adopt a tree program
    • Establish more green spaces to transform the local ecological situation and to act as spaces for community organising
    • Provide more safe spaces like art centers, community libraries and community retreat centres
    • Curb land grabbing, encroachment and pollution of the Mathare River; #LetTheRiversFlowCampaign
  2. Harmonise a collective ecological justice campaign by establishing ecological justice networks in the various informal settlements
  3. Popularise local people’s assemblies as avenues to generate solutions for the peoples’ problems. Including in:
    • Kayole.
    • Githurai.
    • Ngong.
  4. Establish exchange sessions with the Indigenous People’s Assemblies and existing assemblies in Italy, Britain and Scotland.
  5. Organise more workshops and seminars at the grassroots to discuss the creation of local people’s assemblies
  6. Creating alternatives through bicycles lanes along Nairobi River, from Michuki Park to Ruai
  7. Create a secretariat to follow up on the resolutions and a guide for implementation

Report by: Wavinya Kavinya and Waringa Wahome