Pamoja : Together

Bob Miller

2010 - 2011

In the years following Kenya's post-election violence, many youth have begun to sieze active roles in the reform of their nation. Various grassroots initiatives led by youth are improving the quality of life for those living in the direst of conditions, and young people are using waste removal, education, entrepreneurship and athletics to encourage their peers toward a self-respecting and self-sustaining community. Their ethnic diversity is remarkable given Kenya's 2008 post-election violence, in which people from different tribes were forced violently out of slums. Termed “youth groups” on the street, these initiatives could represent the future of long-term socioeconomic development in Kenya while laying the groundwork for a more peaceful election in 2013. Together, these youth represent a nascent trend of cross-tribe brotherhood in a healing nation.

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  • In a community gym, youth await the announcement of opponents as a boxing ring is assembled. Without a sponsor, equipment and supplies for Kibera Olympic Boxing Team are in short supply. The little equipment they have is passed between teammates before each bout.

  • Moses Omondi, 30, is pictured with friend and Chief Campaign Manager Joan Limbala in Kibera. Omondi currently serves as an elected Youth Leader at the sublocation level for youth in Kisumundogo, one of Kibera's many villages. With Limbala's help, Omondi hopes to be elected to the position of County Representative for Makina County in 2012. If elected, Omondi will represent Kibera as a new constituency before the governor, alongside two to four other representatives.

  • Kamau "Kelly" Nganga trains with handmade cement weights under the direction of coach Hassan Khalifa, a Nubian. Following the post-election violence of 2007/2008, many Kikuyu Kenyans were forced out of the slum by other tribes and forced to resettle in rural areas. Nganga, a Kikuyu, was protected by his involvement with Youth Reform, and is now one of the few Kikuyus left in Kibera. As a boxer with the Kibera Olympic Boxing Club, the fact that Nganga, a Kikuyu, represents the slum has been a surprise of many government leaders.

  • Youth play the popular billiards game “Whiteless” at the former Railbreeze Pub in Kisumundogo Village, Kibera. Once an active bar and restaurant, Railbreeze is now an empty hut where Kenyan youth pass the time. Idleness is considered one of the greatest threats to peace and stability in the slums; therefore, many youth groups have formed with the sole objective of providing a productive outlet for adolescents.

  • A community leader addresses a crowd of predominantly Luo youth at a weekly kamkunji meeting in the Kisumundogo village of Kibera. Kamkunji is the Swahili word for “small gathering,” and it provides a weekly venue for individuals to speak out about issues vital to the community. The gathering started in 1990 when Kenyans first fought for a multiparty government.

  • Young spectators from different tribes gather together to watch boxers from the Kibera Olympic Boxing Club compete against the Kenya Armed Forces club. "I believe sports can be used to preach peace," said 22 year-old Kamau Ng'ang'a, "because you meet with many tribes."

  • Members of Carrribean Youth Reform wash Matatus off the main road into Kibera. Formerly called Caribbean Youth Group, the organization changed it's name to Caribbean Youth Reform after several violent youth in the neighborhood came under their ranks and were "reformed" under their leadership. Begun in 2008 as a result of the post-election violence, the group of youth operate with the goal of uniting the young people of differing tribes. With over 60 members, the group operates a car and carpet washing business as well as manages a weekly garbage collection project through which they clean up neighborhoods, gather maneur for compost and sort plastics to sell for income. The group plans to soon build a community toilet and bathroom in the area where the work, and they are also organizing a "conflict management and peacekeeping team." The income generated from their activities is consistent but minimal, says acting secretary Abdallah Juma, age 23, citing lack of funding and financial instability as the groups main hurdle to progress.
    "We are the founders of this country," Juma said. The long term goal of the youth group is to see fewer youth unemployed. "Even without government intervention, we as youth can do it ourselves."

  • A crowd of Luo youth gather to listen to an address at a Kamkunji gathering in Kisumu Ndogo village in Kibera Slum, Nairobi.

  • Youth worker Moses Omondi teaches young children ages 13-16 about inner peace and responses to violence at a weekly Peace Club meeting at St. Juliet School in Kibera. As a project of Tatua, Peace Club was started in March of 2011 to give Kenyans the tools and knowledge necessary to live at peace within oneself and among others. "We are teaching the young generation about the issues that can disturb peace," said Martin Musambai, a volunteer with Tatua. "They need to know how to safeguard themselves against a life of violence." Peace Club classes are also offered to older adolescents and even adults, focusing more on resolving conflict between others after the fact. "If you target the children, give them the skills, when they are adults they will be able to resolve their own conflicts," Musambai said. Snacks are also provided to the students at each class, said Musambai, citing a common stimulus to violence in Kibera: "Hunger and violence are always synonymous."

  • Members of the Gange Youth Self Help Group gather trash and transport it to a local dump site four to five times a day. Gange, which means “hard working,” was started in 1996, and was the first youth reform project to take root in Kibera. On a plot that was formerly a vast dump site, youth have cleared the space and opened a car washing business. “We manage to go on with our life” said Rashid Seif, 28. “We must come with our own vision. We have the idea to be stronger than last election...we want to be a peacemaker.”

  • Moses Omondi advises peer Steven Omondi on how to gather resources and raise money for Pillars of Kibera, a group of performance and spoken word artists who conduct skits in the slum to educate people about issues of non-violence. Moses Omondi is an elected Youth Leader at the sublocation level for youth in Kisumundogo and has helped expand the reach of many youth organizations.

  • Members of the Kibera Hamlets practice a performance of acrobatics, poetry and dance in Katwekera Village in Kibera slum, Nairobi. After the 2007/2008 post-election violence that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Kenyans, many of whom were from the slum, Kibera Hamlets was founded with the mission of using creative forms of expression to sensitize the community to social issues, while simultaneously utilizing youth talents and promoting education.