BY SARAH WAMBUI
It’s been about a year since I joined the newsroom. And in that short or long period depending on how you want to look at it, I have come across people who live in abject poverty; people whose lives would make even the strongest heart shed a tear.
It is to those people that I dedicate this blog and hope that at least one Kenyan Member of Parliament reads it perhaps to get a grip of the levels of poverty in the country since it appears they live elsewhere.
I want to remind them that as they double their allowances and increase their salaries, fellow Kenyans who took them to Parliament literally live from hand to mouth.
Muchina is an Internally Displaced Person who still lives in a tent with six other family members.
These are his words.
“We have become the forgotten lot. We sleep in tents that are two and a half years old but were to last three months. We are have to buy polythene bags to cover our worn out tents in an effort to keep away the water when it rains which rarely works but we have to survive.”
“We gave up on houses. Now we just want tents but even that the government can’t provide them because apparently there is no money.”
And then there’s Mwangi who lives in Mathare North.
Last Saturday he was among four boys who were buried live under loose soil after the pit they were scouring for scrap metal, caved in on them. He has to collect the waste metals which he sells for Sh15 a kilo – just to buy a plate of chips because he knows not where his next meal will come from. He is only 12.
“I was supposed to go to school on that day but my mum asked me to stay home because she had no money so I went out to look for lunch money because I was hungry.”
Parents in most slums encourage their children to fend for themselves as it helps raise family income.
Omondi, a cobbler, attests to this.
“We cannot support our families so what some of us do is send off the children so that they can go look for alternative sources of income. If a child gets Sh20 or Sh10, he or she will buy chips and eat. Such a child will not go back to the parents asking for food.”
Meanwhile there is Kyalo, a garbage collector. He has this to say to the Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I hope he doesn’t do what these MPs want. Where will that money come from? It’s very bad. It’s as if MPs go to Parliament to represent their own stomachs.”
The news that MPs have endorsed the salary increment proposal gets Grace emotional – she is a university student.
“It is very sad because the average Kenyan lives under a dollar a day. How does someone with a conscience sit down and demand for a Sh3.2 million salary and at the end of the day when you are watching prime time news you’re seeing Kenyans struggling?”
“In as much as we are willing to die for Kenya and we really love this country it is not doing us any good because the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.”
I want to leave it at that but it is my hope and prayer that one day Kenya will have leaders who have a conscience; leaders who will try to put the very people they lead at the center of their business.
And I know that day will come because the Lord listens.
(Sarah Wambui is a reporter with Capital News)