Ezekiel Rema

Ezekiel Rema

I'm Ezekiel Rema. I come from Kisiiland. I came to Nairobi in 1984 when I finished my form 4 education. When I came to the city, I was after a job, and I managed to work in an industrial area with several companies as a casual labourer. And in 1990, I got an accident on my hand when I was operating a machine. There was an accident in this right hand of mine. So I was taken to hospital, treated, and then I came to rest for about six months. And when I recovered, I didn't feel happy to go back to where I was working, so I decided to push that company so that they can pay me the compensation for the damages. So I was paid 15,000 shillings for the damages of this hand. And then, from there, I started to establish the business in Toi market. By then, the market was not so big, very few traders were doing business here and there.

Muungano’s Toi Market origins

In 1991, the former president [Moi] was coming to Kibera to lay the foundation of the AIC church, which is very near to this market. We were mobilized by the area chief to go out to around the road and wave the president while he's passing. So we went there, and we did the waving and singing. So he stopped and asked ‘who are these?’ And he was informed by the former area councillor that these are small traders who do their businesses at the open air, sometimes they get problems: when there is rain, they cannot continue with their business, and sometimes when it is very dry, they cannot persevere the dry season. So he requested him that if he can assist the traders to get a permanent market. So the president immediately told the PC [provincial commissioner] who was accompanying him, that ‘please I would like you to consider these people and get a space here, and we do the permanent market for them’.

And after a few months, some surveyors were sent here. They came and surveyed the land, and they set aside a piece of land which is neighbouring this market. So the planning started, the construction also started, and the construction of the stalls was completed in 1995. So, after the completion of the stalls, most of the traders had also increased on this side, so the number was increasing every time because of people who would come from up country looking for jobs. Some of the people who drop out of their work, because some are displaced, or sometimes termination of the work. So some of them, they come and join business. Some are single mothers. The number was increasing all the time.

So one day, the president was coming to Moi Girls – it is a secondary school here. Then after two to three days, we got a report from the DO [district officer], who sent the assistant chief that he would like to see people have moved from this market to the new stalls. And the problem which was there is that after the completion of the stalls there was no information. There was no clear allocation of the stalls that, ‘such and such day you would be the beneficiaries of this’. There is nobody who was informed. People were just waiting to see how they would be allocated. The report was that we [would] close this market and move to the new market. And people were asking, ‘how?’ Because the stalls are earmarked: they have numbers. So how can you invade a market which you have not been given a guideline on which stall you are going to occupy. Who is going to occupy number 1? Who is going to be number 2?

But we came to realise that already they had planned for allocation, and they had done it, and most of the beneficiaries of the stalls were people from the community who were not business people – the Nubians. And the market itself was called Kibera Hawkers Market, and they were saying it is meant for the women. And when we did the research and got the list of beneficiaries, they did about 192 stalls. And 192 stalls, some of them were allocated to the officers in the chief's office, the DO's office, the PC's. So, most of them they were beneficiaries and other chiefs from other locations. So we resisted, that we would not go there, unless and otherwise we had been shown exactly where to operate.

So that is the time when I started organizing a group of people. Because the officials who were in charge – that's the chairman – had already been co-opted with the chief to be part of the beneficiaries. But it was not a clear procedure: they were cheated that they would benefit from that and they could get stalls. So, they were used to make sure that we are evicted from this. Because once you are a chairman of the market, you are the one to give the people guidelines, that, ‘the government is helping us, please we should not resist, we are supposed to go there, and occupy the stalls’.

And then, people were curious about it, because already we had people who had run there. Those people from the community, they came, like today, because we were given an [eviction] notice. They did some marketing. They surveyed our businesses and they saw how we spread our businesses. So they purchased some of the items, like vegetables, onions, so they went that area before we moved, because they knew their stalls, everybody was occupying his space or her space. But those ones which were given – the officers from the government side, from the office of the area chief, the DOs – because they were civil servants, they never came to occupy their space, which were just left vacant.

So some of the traders from Toi Market were asking questions. ‘Are we supposed to go and occupy any space?’ But we said, no. You see, those numbers are given to somebody. And we had done the research through Kituo Cha Sheria, and by that time we started working with Jane Weru, who was working with Kituo. So she helped us to move here and there, and we used to do private meetings because the area chief didn't want to see any group resisting – because for making people move from this land to create space for land grabbers, he was going to be given a present for doing a good work to evict people so that some of the land owners can get their land.

So, after the expiring of the [eviction] notice – it was 14th June 1996, at midnight – some officers were located here, the policemen and the administration police. When people came very early in the morning, around 5am, to start doing the farming products, selling them – because those ones are the business which starts very early in the morning; the clothes normally they come at 6am, 7am. So you find that the police officers are saying, ‘today there is no market here, please go to the other side’. So those people – because at that time the chiefs were very powerful, so there was no resistance – some of the people were just moving very easily. So they occupied some spaces in the market, which were very open, were not planned for business. Some of them they occupied those stalls which were not operating.

Some of our members were not there, so the demolition of structures was done and most of the things were stolen. For one week, life was very hard, because those village elders who normally work with the chief, they were there monitoring the movements of the people. Sometimes they tell you, ‘you are not supposed to spread your business here, move from here to that space, move from here go to this’. So they were rushing people, and those people who came from up country, like the wholesalers who come with tomatoes, vegetables, there was no space inside the market, so they were selling outside the market, and they were just forced to go away. So there was a lot of harassment.

That's 1996, from June, July, to August; about 2 months. So we managed by that time to use a centre – there is a centre which is next to this area – where we went and hid ourselves. We raised some money, and we paid Kituo Cha Sheria so that now Jane can represent us in court. And then we went to court. The first mentioning, the area chief did not come. The second mentioning, he came to represent the government. So when the hearing started, he was unable to explain to court the process, how it went when you move people from one place to another, what was the procedure, and what was the intention. He just said that the government was giving the traders the market, it is a presidential market, so there is no way people were to operate two markets at the same area, and here the government has built the market. But he was asked, ‘are you sure that those people who were the other side were beneficiaries of the new market?’ He was unable to answer, because he knew that only six people from the market were beneficiaries of the [new] stalls.

After going for hearings for about two times, the judgement was given that the chief had done nothing wrong to evict us from this land because we were taken to the new market, but the problem was, the market was not enough for the number of traders who were on the other side. So, for those ones who benefitted in the allocation of the new stalls, they should continue doing their business. And those ones who were not beneficiaries of the market, they should remain in Toi until the government plans for them.

We started singing from the court. We hired about three vehicles and we sang to the market. And then we attracted a big crowd from the other side of the market, because they knew that side was not a business area. So when they found that now we were singing and saying, ‘we have won the case and we are supposed to be in our market, those ones who were on the stalls there they can remain there’, even those ones who were beneficiaries [of the new market], they ran away from that. So we came back and told the people that now you go back to your space. If you know where you were doing your business previously, please go back to that space. And if you are a newcomer, you can look for a space which has not been used by anybody, because we don't want any conflict. So we encouraged people to continue doing their business here, and then we started now.

How Muungano emerged, in Nairobi

Because at that time the problem was within the city. It was not only in Toi Market where eviction was done – the eviction was all over the city. They were demolishing informal areas, they were demolishing informal markets. We had very many slums where people were going for legal support to Kituo Cha Sheria. During that time when we met at Kituo, it is when we started knowing each other, because while we were waiting for lawyers advice, we talked. ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘I come from Mathare’. ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘I come from Westlands’. ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘Mukuru industrial area’. ‘From Maili Saba’. ‘What's the problem?’ ‘The chief has evicted us’. ‘Why?’ ‘Because he wants the grabbers to take the land’. So there was a lot of eviction within the city.

So then from there, we started asking ourselves, what can we do so that now we can protect our rights of doing business and also homes in the slums? So we said, we must come together. Because most of the people knew, whenever you are in an open area like Toi Market, or when you are in Kibera, if you want to put up a structure you must go to the area chief. When you go there, if the space is there they will tell you, ‘if you want to put a structure or two rooms, pay this money’. You pay the chief with the village elders. Once you are allocated that space by the administration, automatically you know that is a government office which is genuine, and also it is a presidential office because at the chief’s office is written 'the office of the president'. Most of the people knew, once you are given a space to put up a structure, it is a government recommendation for you to be there. So most of the people knew that way. But when they find that now the chief was the one who was working with the land grabbers and evicting people, people started thinking, ‘if the chiefs are the ones who gave us this space and we gave them money, and now the chiefs are the ones who are evicting us, then where do we go to ask for assistance?’ There is nowhere. So we should have to come together, and look for alternative ways of fighting these evictions.

So that's where now we started forming a team. First of all, we formed a team of 13 members. Each village [ie slum area] had one representative in that committee of 13 members, then from Mathare, Korogocho, Maili Saba, Kingstone, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Mukuru kwa Reuben, Westlands Market, Kamae village, which is near to Kenyatta University, Kahawa Soweto... So we had representatives in that team. We started doing private meeting, and most of the meetings mostly was for sharing the experiences of evictions, and trying to see what can we do as a community to stop these evictions.

At that time, the Chiefs Act Section 2A of the Constitution of Kenya was very powerful. There is nowhere you can challenge the chief – the constitution has protected their powers – so once they say you are not supposed to hold a meeting, you cannot hold a meeting. They arrest you. So we used to go out to churches, we used to go to NGOs offices, where we cannot be found.

Finally, we realised that there was a problem on land issues. After sharing how people got a land, how we came to do businesses on these spaces, we came to realise that the Constitution of Kenya doesn't allow everybody to give land, but there is that power which is under the president. It comes down to the area chief and the wazees [elders] – they use it. But it is not a legal process, so that’s why when the chief gives you a space, it is not the final person. The Minister of Land and the city council of Nairobi are the offices in charge of allocation of land, but these of the area chief are temporary allocations. Even the president, even if he has said that is your land, that is such political statements which cannot support anything you say in court.

So now we started organizing for awareness meetings, telling people to know that the land is under the Minister of Land and it is under the Commission of Land and the Nairobi City Council, and if once one somebody comes to evict you, he must have a court order. And before the court order is issued, you must go to court so that now you can give your side, the story of your side, how you came to that land, and the owner of the land also could prove to the court.

But most of the lands, you find that the titles or the security of tenure which they were using, most of them they were not genuine security of tenure. Some of them were fake – you find somebody having a title of Mombasa, he can use it in Nairobi to evict you; once you are evicted it is when he goes to process for allocation of that land.

Some of them, they used letters written by the lawyers, and sent to the area chief, and the chief stamps that letter, and they use it for evictions. And when they come to the meeting, the chief was the one to mobilize people and to say, ‘today, I'm here because you are using somebody's land and I'm told that you are supposed to leave this land by such and such a date, if you don't leave, I will come by force’. So immediately people start moving one, one, one, until you clear the land. And if you don't clear the land, they come and burn that area or they come with youths, they evict you. Or they come midnight. They used to do anything. They come with the bulldozers, they pull down everything. It was very harsh, it was a violation of rights.

So when we were getting awareness, we were also mobilising people to show solidarity. Whenever, if it is Toi Market being affected or threatened for eviction now, because we have done awareness the whole of Nairobi, so immediately I would inform them that, ‘we have been given a notice of eviction, it is to be take place on such and such a day, please can you come and support us?’ So we go to that area and stay vigil to make sure that we support. If there is that force coming, we will fight. We were ready to fight. We were ready to resist. We used to go and sleep there for even three days, waiting for those people to come. Sometimes they don't come because they know we are many, because we can go even 500 people and come there. We used that tactics to influence more people to see that this is the only way of protecting our homes and our businesses.

Later, the number [of leaders] increased to 45, because even the people from Athi River, which is environ to Nairobi – it is about 60 km away from Nairobi – they also joined us because they had also problems of evictions. We had people from outside Nairobi. So within the Nairobi city and its environs we had about 45 members of that committee. That was as from 1998 to 1999.

And then from that time, because we had a lot of pressure, a lot of demonstrations, even though we were doing that, also the government was still evicting other people. We go there, we fight with the police, they used tear gas, we resisted, we rebuilt the market if it is the market, if it is the village we rebuild it. So it was a lot of chaos all the time. Today we are in Kibera, tomorrow we are at Mathare, the other day we are in Korogocho. So it was just a rapid eviction which was taking place, and it was helping us to mobilize more people. We did so until 1998, when the president came at Goodleigh. We crowded around the road and put up some banners demanding that we are not comfortable because we are getting threats all the time that one day we are going to be evicted. So the president says, if one wants to evict you, he must show you where to go before you are evicted – it was on the gazette. So it started reducing that evictions, because it is the president who has said, if you want to remove people from this land make sure you show them somewhere, not just chasing them and leaving them around the road.

How did Muungano begin to evolve? How did the context begin to change?

In 1999, because of the pressure from the movement and the civil society who were supporting us (sometimes they facilitated for transport, sometimes they facilitated for venues for meetings, because we also organized for conferences, for big meetings, where people come and share the experiences and we are able to gather the information – somebody would come and say, ‘I'm from such and such a village, the village was set fire on such and such a day, and we were able to resist, and now there is still issues some threats’, so we were able to get the information). And then from there, because of that pressure, the government realised that there was need for land reforms, in 1999.

So they formed the Njonjo Commission, which was doing the inquiry on land allocation, land distribution. So they went around and collected the views from the people, which helped the government to understand how complex is land in Kenya. Because when you come to Kibera, you find the area chief has given land, the councillor has given, the youths are giving, and the wazees – the village elders – they give land. So it was a complicated issue and land is a fundamental right to people. When you go to Embakasi, you find the MP is giving land; he's called himself a commissioner of land. When you go to other areas, you find a youth group is controlling land. So that is when now the government came to realise that there is need for land reforms, because of the recommendation which was given by the commission.

And then from there, they also formed the Ndongo Commission, which was inquiring on the illegal allocation of public land. And the Ndongo report, when it came out, it found that most of the public land – the open spaces, health centre land, road reserves, so many areas – had been grabbed, which was for community use. Sometimes this is a school land. So they recommended the revocation of all those titles, but very few were revoked.

Also in 2000, we had the Ghai Commission. The Ghai commissioner was looking about the reform of the constitution of Kenya, and in that process, also the land was one of the issues in the constitution. So we managed also to give views to Ghai Commission, about land.

In 2002, we also had some exchanges. In 1997, we managed to get an exchange from South Africa. A group of people from South Africa, they came and shared with us the way they have been working with the government doing housing projects. There was a group known as South Africa People's Homeless Federation, and they were working with the People's Dialogue. They used to bring people together, they do savings, they get subsidies and do houses, and also the government was doing housing. So we went there and learnt a lot from them. We went a group of six people from different informal settlements, so we were able to gather some skills from South Africa. And also 1998 we went to Zimbabwe, and also shared with people from Zimbabwe. In 2000, we also went to Namibia – Habitat for Humanity, where they were doing housing projects. So we were also able to see how the government is helping people. We also came now using the same ideas, pushing the government. ‘Why are you doing this and other countries are doing this?’ So we were able to engage the government, and as from 2001 we started negotiating with the City Council of Nairobi.

And in 2000, we started organizing our people – as from 2000, before 2001. We started organizing our people to form groups, so that now you can be able to demand for your rights. You cannot be going to the office without people who are organized. So we started mobilising people to come together. If it is in Kibera, we have a group of people from Kibera who are working together towards their rights, or it may be a certain land issue; they want to protect their land, or they want to do housing. So we started demanding for that, and told people, if you want to engage the government, we cannot go to the office of the government and just say you want land. You would be asked, ‘where is that land? How much do you have?’ So we said, you must have some money and also do some research. When we go there, we are supposed to say, ‘we are 50 people’ or ‘we are 200 people’, ‘we have been there for 20 years, we do these businesses, we have houses, we have children, this is what we are doing, and we would like to be allocated this land’. And then from there, the government may say, ‘this land is not possible for you to be allocated because it is for future plans’ – maybe it is a school land, maybe this is a road reserve – and then from there you can start engaging.

So now there was a reduction of evictions; it was not too much. There was this negotiation now, because we were able to tell people that before you are evicted, you must scrutinize that title, because some of the titles are not genuine titles. So now people had information, so even those people who were grabbing land, now they were not doing in the same way they were doing, because they knew people were armed with information [that] before you do it, you must have gone to court.

As from 2002, we participated in the first World Urban Forum and we had so many people from other countries. At that time we had people from Homeless International, people from SDI, the NGOs from other countries. So the SDI group was facilitating the other people from other countries who are doing the same work from the community people – they have groups. So we had a big group in Nairobi. We went to the UN the whole of the week, sharing about the World Urban Forum, the issue of slums. The other countries were sharing how they have done housing, how the government has given subsidies, how World Bank has given money, how UN Habitat has supported other countries. And then that day, the [Kenyan] president also said he welcomes that idea, and he would like those people who can [to] support the upgrading of slums; he's ready to allocate some of the land within the slums. So that's where we were able now to start in Kibera [on the KENSUP project] – because the UN Habitat was now in charge of Kibera when [KENSUP] is started.

From that time, we were able now to spread the federation all over the country. We were able to go to Mombasa, we were able to go to Nakuru, we were able to go to Kisumu, we were able to go to Kakamega – so many regions – because of that exposing of the issues, and the way the president now has changed and said, ‘people should work together and the government is ready to help them, so long as people are united and they have something what they are doing’.

Muungano’s upgrading model in Huruma vs the state’s upgrading approach in Kibera

In that time when we were in the World Urban Forum, we did the first house as a model at the Ghetto village in Huruma. We did a small house, ground plus one, for an old mzee and it was shown for about three days as a sample, to show the modern system of doing housing. And people were happy with it. And then from there, because we had started the negotiation with the Nairobi City Council with some of the villages in Huruma, now city council of Nairobi accepted, so those people from Kambi Moto – Muungano Kambi Moto – because they were occupying a public space which was for parking, they were allowed to do housing project.

And then it’s now we started going there, other people from other slums went there to support the Kambi Moto. Also we got some support from outside – as soft loans. People were also able to contribute some money. So the housing project started easily, and that is the first project we did for housing, which now we use as a precedent for Muungano to show the government that, if they can support the community maybe by giving land and encouraging people to come together to do savings, it is easy for them to do housing without any conflict. Because if you see the housing project in Huruma and the issue of structure owners and tenants, it easy to solve because of the way we were approaching that issue – telling people, ‘if you say you have 20 rooms and you claim to be a landlord and yet you don't have any security of tenure: we are all the same’. Even if you are a tenant or you are a structure owner, you all have the same problem: if the eviction comes, there is nowhere you will be. You would be left aside.

So that's the first project we did, and it was very successful, because there is nowhere people have complained they lost their properties. We were able to get awareness on land issues – the ownership system – so that now the structure owners can understand that they don't own anything, the land is for the government. The structures are theirs, but if the government wants to take the land, they would demolish, so we would be the losers, all of us – be it you are a tenant, you are a structure owner. That's why now they accepted the idea of coming together and accepting that, how can we share the land? Who is going to get what? Even if you are a tenant, what share are you going to get? If you are a structure owner, what share are you going to get? So it was easy for them to negotiate and accept and then start the project.

But when you compare the one with the government, people are not involved. It is the government doing itself. Even though they involve people by asking people questions and what have you, but the construction itself, there is no community who are involved. It is given to the contractors who hire the people. They pay their people, the people do houses, and they go. But with the one with the community, they are the ones who do the work, they are the ones to buy the materials, they are the ones to participate from the ground, they are the ones to design their houses. Everything, until the allocation, they are the ones. And even the repayment of the loans for the housing, they are the ones who are doing. But with this the government, people don't know how they are going to pay, even though we encourage them to do the housing cooperative societies. For Kibera Soweto East they formed the cooperatives, but because of politics many people never saved money. Because there was a lot of politics, some were saying the government is building free houses, some were saying there’s no houses the government is building for you. People were not clear about the project – that's why you find even now it is a problem. Because we were supposed to do allocation of the housing in 2014, [but] up to now, people are going to court all the time, there is a lot of conflict from the community. Even those ones who are not beneficiaries of the project have involved themselves in the process: they are demanding for their rights. So you find that now, because of the system the government was using, it is hard for the government to control – because there is a lot of corruption within the process, so you find it is not easy. Still we are waiting to see whether it will succeed and the right people will get the houses. But it is a big challenge because of the government working system.

What have been Muungano’s biggest achievements over the years?

So, to me, what I can say, to look at the federation of Muungano, we have been able to protect so many slums which were on threats of eviction, and they are there even now. Like Toi Market – it has existed over 20 years since eviction. We have so many villages which have existed and yet they were on threats of eviction. We have been able to make our people get land through the savings – they have been able to purchase land outside the [slum]. There are those ones who have been able to build houses, like in Huruma we have about five projects: we have Huruma, Kambi Moto, we have Ghetto, we have Maheira, we have Gitathuo. We have Kahawa Soweto, where houses have been built for the community; even though they are not enough for the people, but houses are there for the community themselves.

And also we have been able to influence policy developments which are pro-poor. Previously, we did not have the policy on land, but since 2004 we were able to work with the Minister of Land and the Minister of Housing to push for house policy and land policy, which was enacted in 2009 – which is sessional paper number 3 of 2009. And that National Land Policy is the one which has created the Office of the National Land Commission. And now, even though we have a conflict between the Cabinet Secretary on Land and the Chairman of the National Land Commission, but that is how the constitution has given that responsibility on land issues.

We have also been able to participate in many policies, like the Eviction and Resettlement Bill, which is supposed to be completed soon, which will control the evictions – every time when you want to do an eviction in Kenya, you must use that guideline. Because that is the major problem we have, that people have been evicted at midnight, people have been evicted during rainy season, and violation of rights has been done for so many years. But if you can have that policy, it will guide: when you want to do eviction, what time are you supposed to do, what are you supposed to do for the people who are the victims of the eviction, and how are you supposed to conduct the eviction – so there are steps for you to follow before you evict somebody from the land.

And we also managed to participate in the Community Land Bill, which also helps to protect the land of the community, like outside Nairobi, like Maasailand – north-eastern part of Kenya – where people use land as a communal property. And also those houses we are doing in Nairobi, they are supposed to be under that policy for communal use, because we have seen so many areas where people are given houses, they sell, and then they go to squat another area and they claim they are homeless – so it is like they are doing business with the government – so that problem cannot end. So we are saying, once the government do their housing project like in Kibera they should not issue individual titles, they must give a communal ownership title to control people from selling that property. You see, people get a lot of money when they are selling land, so they know once you have a piece of land within the city, you are rich. So we are fighting for that.

And we also participated in new Water Act of 2002, which was focusing on accessibility of water to informal settlements. Previously, water was becoming very expensive. So through that policy, we have been able to help our people get more water and sanitation within their areas, and even though there is no planning, but we can use that policy. And even the price of water was rising every day, but through that policy it has been controlled, it is not so expensive.

And also we were able to participate in the Land Use – the process was stopped I don't know why. There is another one which is urban planning, which was supposed to guide the urban development – National Urban Development policy.

And also we have been able mobilize more people. We have been able to create the relationship with the government, like the Ministry office, and the housing office. I think, through the federation we have been able to do a lot and help more people come together for one purpose. Because that was the only way of engaging with the government, the political leaders, and even also fighting for our rights. And even fighting for the Bill of Rights in the new Constitution of Kenya, it is because of the pressure from the social movements and the civil society. Because the bill of rights was eliminated, but because of the pressure we had, it was put [back] in the constitution.

The biggest achievement is those people who have been able to build houses. And the government using that example to show that the poor people can do housing – they can solve the problem of structure owners and tenants. And also we have been able to buy land for Toi market members, which is around Kangundo Road. And many of Muungano members have been able to get skills. Some of them have skills on building houses, some of them have been able to do computer – because when we were doing enumeration, people were trained on how to do keying in the names and information, all information from the community they were able to get the information. And also exposure: many people have been able to have international exchanges. They share and learn from others. Others have been able to get jobs outside Kenya through Muungano.

So to me, I don't really see any downfall, because the federation has been able to awaken many people in the informal settlements who were not aware that they can engage the government and they can push the government. Like the project of the railway: we were able to go to India with the government officers, and we managed to talk with them, and they learnt a lot from India. And when they came back, they said, ‘no, we are not supposed to evict people from around the railway line, we can do housing within a certain space and the other [space] we do the development for railways along the railway line’. And the houses have been done, which was not possible [before], and it is because of Muungano.

What have been Muungano’s biggest challenges over the years?

[Muungano’s] strength is not there like the previous time. The most challenges we have now is because of the new system we have of governance in Kenya. We have the county government and we have the national government, all of them they do the national budget. We have the national budget for the national government, and we have the county budget. And these budgets, all of them they are supposed to have views from the public, whereby now you find the federation members they are supposed to come together and share the document. After sharing the document, they are able to see what is proposed and then they can give their views in the 2015, 2016, 2017 budgets. Because they have some of the issues that they have put there, which needs some forces from the people to demand. But you see now, because of the weakness we have from the federation, we cannot be able to participate. A few of us who are informed can manage to go and give some views, but it needs a lot of people coming together and saying ‘no, we want the government to allocate this money for this project’. If it is for education, ‘we have a problem of education and we need enough money’. If it is health, ‘we want this money’. But you find now that the pressure is not there, because of the separation of the federation.

But if they can come together, it is easy to get the information and call for a meeting, and people share and do some documentation and then they can take forward whatever they want. And that is the idea of forming the federation: creating space for people to participate in development, creating space for people to be elected in leadership from the ward, in the county system, so that now they can be able to do some influence in the decision-making when the government wants to do any development in any area. But if you are not involved, you cannot have the right people. And in most cases you find the people who attend these meetings, they are the political supporters of the parties, so their interests are not for the community – they are just there because of their parties. So we need to have people who are really for development.

And these people who are really for developments, they are those ones who have been in the struggle, and who are doing developments within themselves. Like us: we have groups, they do water projects, we do housing projects, we buy lands for our people. We need people who are informed to participate in those forums. So that’s why I'm saying, the federation must come together for the betterness of our future. But not to stay in the offices like NGOs and forgetting the struggle of the people. Yet we have a big number of people who are not informed, and because of the conflict within the parties, still people are changing the constitution – they have seen several times where parliament is changing our constitution and they are going to a one party system, which is very bad to the people. We should wake up our people and make sure they fight for their rights.

What are your hopes for Muungano’s next 20 years?

I would like to see, in 20 years coming, the federation being very strong and having a financial system which can support the federation in these projects like housing, microfinance, small businesses supporting loans. And also having a voice: whenever the government want to do something, they must call Muungano to sit on the table and discuss; they are an organization which is recognized by the government, and they are involved in participation in anything. If it is formulating policies, they are able to be invited and they can sit and negotiate, they can give proposals. A society that is respected by the government and can participate in development within their area.