By Owino Paul
It is a land that has produced greatest leaders in Kenya’s history was the main settlement for British American Tobacco workers and was also a resting place for European’s horses during the colonial days. Sensational rumba artist Daudi Kabaka also wrote a song about the slum Shauri Moyo.
Shauri Moyo is one of Nairobi’s oldest slums. Its existence dates back to the late 1930s. It is perhaps the busiest of Nairobi slums, located on the left side of Jogoo Road from the Nairobi’s Central Business District.
As one enters it you are able to meet thousands of residents carrying on their daily business. The origin of the slum’s name is interesting. It hearkens back to colonial rule when the British had divided Nairobi into settlement schemes according to races.
There were three different races and to effect this the races were given citizenship according to their race. There were first citizens, second citizen and third citizens.
First citizens were Europeans, who mostly occupied Ngong’, Karen and up to some parts of Westlands. Second citizens were Arabs and Asians who occupied, Westlands and Pangani but then Europeans forced their way into Westland and Arabs had to forced the Asians to move up to Eastleigh.
Africans having no place to go had to choose whether to leave or not. It was a hard choice, hence the creation of Shauri Moyo.
The name is a Swahili word for “consult your heart.” Africans had to consult their hearts to determine whether they would stay or not.
Boniface Mutua is a resident of Lunga Lunga, one of the slums neighbouring Shauri Moyo. He has set up a workshop to repair bicycles along Moyale Road in Shauri Moyo. In an interview with Ghetto Mirror said, “When I was young I used to hear that all these houses the stone built ones were constructed during the colonial period as a resting place for colonisers’ horses,” he said. “So when housing became a problem people were asked to choose whether or not to move into the houses by the colonial musters.”
Shauri Moyo is in Kamkunji Constituency, an area that has produced some of Kenya’s elite politicians. The late Tom Mboya and Martin Shikuku, former president and Member of Parliament for Othaya constituency. His Excellency Hon. Mwai Kibaki once stayed Kamkunji.
Kamkunji Constituency as well hosts the Kamkunji ground that was mostly used during political rallies and public demonstrations that transformed the nation.
The settlement is divided into five villages. Burma that is located next to the Burma meat joint. Juakali l, and ll the villages neighbour Juakali artisans’ workshops. There are also Mombasa Ndogo and Kisumu Ndogo.
Residents like the place, it has improved security. According to Kennedy Agwingi, the residents have been key to improving the areas security.
“Shauri Moyo’s security is not bad, we are the security ourselves,” Agwingi said. “During the day we help each other in monitoring security but at night none residents coming from our neighbourhoods, Majengo, Pumwani and Eastleigh come to disturb our security.”
Boniface Mutua though not a resident of Shauri Moyo, was quick to confirm that there was a time when Shauri Moyo’s security was worse than what it is now.
“Nowadays Shauri Moyo is good. We can go for over two or three months without hearing or seeing someone being robbed in broad daylight,” he said. “In the past it was a norm, a day couldn’t pass without one or two people being brought down in broad day light with no one doing anything to help.”
There is a social hall and a rehabilitation centre in the slum. Shauri Moyo Rehabilitation Centre is situated along Butecho Road, a few metres from the Shauri Moyo Police Station. The rehabilitation centre is mainly for criminals within the slums. Shauri Moyo Social Hall and YMCA centre are the main youth centres in the area.
Shauri Moyo as well houses Kenya’s largest meat joint, Burma, which was started in 1939 during the Second World War. It is named after Burma—now called Myanmar— a former British colony in the Southeast Asia that was invaded by Japanese during the Second World War. Most of the soldiers here were mainly from the United Kingdom, British India and Africa.
Shauri Moyo, like other slums, has few government sponsored schools. Most of the houses in Shauri Moyo are of corrugated iron-sheets as their walls. Drainage systems in the slum are poor. Children and women alike can be seen with cans disposing of dirt and pouring already used water in ditches passing by the door ways. The ditches are also blocked with polythene bags causing the water not to move.
An outstanding difference from other slums though is that there is no single wire passing through the air supplying electricity.
There is no regular water supply in the area and most of the youths in the slum have turned selling water as a form of making a living. All across the paths of Shauri Moyo there is a man or two pulling a cart full of 20 litres water jerricans for sale.
Another common business in the area is car washing. This is done mainly by young boys who have recently finished school as it is practiced by existing youth groups.
Most of the residents Shauri Moyo like football. Kenya’s football giants clubs AFC leopards and Gor Mahia have an equal share of the fan base from the residents. There are several local football clubs, including Shauri Moyo Sportif, which has their playing ground that borders Kamkunji grounds commonly known as “desser” in Majengo.