The Oppressed People of Kibra : A Nubian Perspective

Nuba woman near Kau, Nuba Mountains, Sudan
Nuba woman near Kau, Nuba Mountains, Sudan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British colonial government and the Nubian soldiers

When the British first came to Kenya, they brought with them conscripted soldiers from the Nuba area of the Sudan – whose descendants now live scattered in many areas in Kenya, but the majority of them are found in the slum area of Kibra in Nairobi.

After their arrival in Kenya the British possessed and exercised absolute sovereignty over what became known as the Kenya British Colony.

The British colonial government  allocated a land approximately 4000 acres set up as a military settlement for the Sudanese soldiers. This piece of land, which is the present Kibra, is on the outskirts of the city of Nairobi.

The vast land was then “empty”, uninhabited thick forest when the Nubians first occupied it.

English: Slum Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.
English: Slum Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was the land that the colonial government gave as a gift to the ex-Sudanese soldiers in recognition of their distinguished service.

The Nubians knew how to survive there as they came to know the area so well. They divided the area into small villages and had names for each village in their own language(s).

They cultivated the land to produce food for themselves.

Kibra land survey and allocations

In the year 1933 a land commission was formed by the then British colonial government and was known as ” Carter Land Commission”, which set out policies on land uses and acquisition. The Kibra land case was particularly mentioned in this report where special consideration was given to the area.

In the year 1934, a plan of  “location survey of buildings and agricultural lands”  was prepared which showed the numbered plots allocated to the ex-Sudanese soldiers and their descendants.

These plots were considered in the same category as any rural ancestral land around the country and therefore subject to being accorded appropriate security of tenure ownership document.

Broken agreement

When people “treatied” or “agreed” with one another, on whatever agreement with one another, each party’s interest, its pride and its word were at stake. The word  used in this case “agreed” (to give this piece of land to the ex-Sudanese soldiers as a gift) was given in a very sacred way and should not have been very easily broken.

Rewriting history

The present authority appear to have distorted the history about Kibra. It is difficult to find written document about this piece of land.

In the early years when the then British colonial government recognized and handed over the land to the ex-soldiers, the crown of the Great Britain must have laid down a process in the proclamation that set forth the policy on this particular piece of Kibra land. To my knowledge, that policy has not been revoked at any time. In the proclamation, the Colonial government must have recognized that  any land possessed or given to a certain individual or group would be reserved for them until they ceded that land back to the authority.

In the Carter Land Commission of 1933 report lies a proclamation that could be regarded as the first major  legal link between the Kibra Nubians and and the Kenya government. And by virtue of that proclamation, it can be said that Kibra is legally an area reserved for Nubians.


The history on the settlement of Kibra has shown that the successive Kenya governments have continued to disregard the plight of the Nubian community. The oppression of this marginalized community is about the denial of security of land tenure and the citizenship rights.

On the other hand, why have the successive British governments maintain a non-committal stance on this matter?



The Bill of Rights and the Marginalised People

The Bill of Rights

The new constitution of Kenya has a comprehensive chapter on the bill of rights in Chapter 4.

The bill of rights plays a central role in Kenyan law and governance and remains a fundamental symbol of the freedoms of culture of the nation.

It is integral part of Kenya democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural policies.

Chapter 4 of the constitution, in part, stipulates that:

. State organs and all public offices have the duty to address the needs of the vulnerable groups within the society including members of the minority or marginalised communities.

. That minority and marginalized groups participate in governance and other spheres of life. – This is what the new constitution of Kenya says.

So as to make matters more easier for the disadvantaged minority groups, the constitution provides for a number of special seats for the marginalized in the county governments. This was to be done through political parties lists of nominees for the county assemblies.

But contrary to that, what happened during the process was that the political parties disregarded the constitution and and the fundamental rights of the diwsadvantaged, thus many such communities did not find their way in the parties lists published by the Indipendent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ( IEBC ), and completely missed out on these opportunities. The political parties completely ndisregarded them in the nomination process.

This is unfair to the marginalized groups and is a major blow to the principles of equality. It infringes the constitution and the fundamental rights.

One such community, whose hopes has been dashed is the marginalized Nubian community scattered in several parts of Kenya, and whose ancestral home is Kibra, in the neighborhood of the city of Nairobi.

( see more on the history of Nubians by visiting my website ).

The community has petitioned Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) expressing the community’s concern over this matter, and is awaiting response.

The problems the community is going through need representation.

Writing this article was never about making money. However, the donation I ask for will help me cove my blogging expenses in the long journey I intend to make advocating for the reforms of the marginalized  minority, and also engaging in community matters.

Donation can be made via PayPal using the button below.

Orphans and Destitute Children in Slums

human rights
human rights (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Lets care for orphans and destitutes in Slums

We seem to forget that among the dense population in the slums are orphans and destitute children. Their numbers is increasing at a rate twice as much as the increase in the slum population.
Wars, great epidemics (like HIV) and poverty (due to bad governance), have created thousands of these orphans and destitute s.
These young people who are the nation’s future are growing and chances are that many of them will reach working age and will have no earning capacity due to lack of education as they cannot attend schools. Many will probably not be able to vote.
This category of our community need help. If we cannot help them to have earning capacity,or help them to to have upright morals, they will grow up and be a menace to the society.

Early intervention programs.

Everybody should have a passion for shared civil responsibility. If everybody play their part, we would hold the key to understanding and solving our own problems.
We are hoping that Human Rights organizations, in their campaigns, will take a proactive role to assist in the matter, probably organize awareness day to spread the message about.
However, the biggest help should come from the governments in Africa. They should stop bad governance, injustices like marginalization which are the major cause of poverty. We all know that poverty is driven by failures of governance in states where public resources ate squandered without accountability.

Writing this article was never about making money. However, the donation I appeal for is for enabling me cover my  blogging expenses in the long journey I intend to make advocating for the reforms of the marginalized minority, and also engaging in community matters.

Donation can be made via PayPal using the button below.



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Kenya Nubians Celebrate ACERWC Rulling

ACERWC rulling

The year 2012 brings with it a great hope and high expectations for the Nubian community on Kenya. This is so because in September 2011, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Child published its first ever decision, relating to discrimination in access to nationality for Nubian children in Kenya. ACERWC was responding to a communication filed under its complaints procedure. The committee found the case to be admissible because the national proceeding here in Kenya had effectively stalled making the case an exception to the requirement to exhaust domestic remedies before turning to the committee.
The arguments put forward to the Committee of Experts are:
1. Violation of the rights to acquire nationality at birth for Nubian children.
2. Unlawful discrimination against Nubian children on basis of their ethnic background.
3. Consequential violations: as a result of historical tre- atment as foreigners, citizen status was uncertain, denial of equal access to essential services such as education and healthcare.

The Committee found Kenya’s action violated Article 6 of the African Charter provision protecting children’s right. The Committee then made its recommendations to the government of Kenya to correct the violations within six month after the ruling.
ACERWC decision’s significance extends well beyond Kenya. Nubians are conscious that their case could have far reaching implications for other marginalized groups in Kenya and Africa as a whole. Their example should also be a source of hope and encouragement for stateless communities struggling to claim their rights all over the world.

Time to celebrate or is it still too early?

The Voice of the Marginalized People

Marginalized people of Kibra

Kibra is an area on the outskirt of Nairobi, the capitol city of Kenya. This piece of land, measuring approximately 4100 acres was a reward given to the Nubian soldiers by the then British colonial government. The Nubian soldiers fought alongside the British army from the 19th century up to the two world wars of 1914 and 1945.
Although the politics of this country has changed Kibra to what it is now, the largest slum in Africa. The Nubians who live in Kibra, which is their home, are now a small minority in the ratio of 1 to 12, after their land was invaded by outsiders brought in by selfish politicians.

The Nubians still cherish and have passion for Kibra, even with the faint hope of obtaining the land ownership document from the government. And even as the number of poor and excluded people among the community is increasing rapidly.

Expression of Passion for Kibra
1. We all know that there is a great ‘passion’ among our community for out Kibra. People love the ambiance, the natural setting, the country side, the history, the heritage and much mote. These feelings have unfortunately been largely destroyed by the politics of this country.
2. There is a strong sense of community. We ate proud of ourselves, our community organizations and our neighborhoods.
3. There is a sense of entrenchment. As people say, ‘we all love progress, it is the change we hate’.
4. Nonetheless, we recognize the opportunity in pursuing fresh ideas/ attitudes. There is a desire to create a new vision, plan for the future and coordinate efforts across the community.
5. Too much focus on issues and weaknesses. We need to promote our strengths among ourselves. Then we will be better able to present our strengths to visitors and others outside our community.
6. There are specific issues that are foremost in our minds:
a. To unite our people so that we speak from same voice.
b. To get the ownership documents for the Kibra land.
c. To protect our quality of life and address the well being of our people.
7. There are strengths to build upon in the community and opportunities to pursue:
a. Coordinating the talents and energies of our people to achieve a common vision.
b. To promote our arts, culture, recreation and leisure
c. Heritage.
d. Under utilized resources
e. Honesty.
8. Our people are knowledgeable, experienced and brimming with interesting and innovative ideas. The challenge is to make good use of these valuable resources.


Writing this article was never about making money. However, the small donation I plead for is for helping me cover blogging expenses in the long journey I intend to make advocating for reforms of the marginalized minority,  and also engaging in other community matters.

Donation can be made via PayPal using the button below.



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Access to New Media by Minority Groups

English: Professor Alex Jones (Harvard Kennedy...
English: Professor Alex Jones (Harvard Kennedy School) giving a lecture about the role of media in social change. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marginalized / minority groups are urged to use new technology to drive social change

The marginalized / minority tribes in Kenya, and indeed all over Africa and the World are urged to use the new technology to connect with people internationally to fight and drive away the social evil they are facing in the name of marginalization.

Through community forums these groups could use the technologies which include mobile platforms and the internet which can now be used for promoting democratic practices, civic participation, learning, and youth empowerment. Also can be used for economic and social entrepreneurship among other issues.

Empower young people

The communities should put more emphasis on young people who are particularly receptive to new technologies and adopt to its demands with clarity when given the chance.

Youth can use the technology to engage in human right activities.


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History of Kibra – The Home of the Marginalised Nubians

English: Kibera Slum in Nairobi Deutsch: Der S...
English: Kibera Slum in Nairobi Deutsch: Der Slum Kibera in Nairobi Polski: Kiberia – dzielnica slumsów w Nairobi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Facts about Kibra

Kibra is a village on the outskirt of Nairobi, (capital city of Kenya), about six kilometers from the city center. It is a home for the Nubian community whose forefathers were settled there by the then British colonial government after conscription from the army, the Kings African Rifles (KAR). Nubians originated from the northern Sudan.
Kibra Nubian village as it is known, came into being early last century, after the area was designated a military reserve for the demobilized KAR soldiers.
Kibra was already there when Nairobi was made a city in 1902. Kibra was registered in 1917/18, and survey map reproduced in 1934.
The official original area of Kibra was 1497.5 acres. This area has however been reduced to its current 600 or so acres by the successive governments employing the policy of marginalization, and land grabbing by corrupt government authorities and influential rich people.
Kibra Problems
Kibra lost its origin soon after independence. These problems were started by selfish politicians who wanted to keep control over their voters. The first change we saw in Kibra was the change of the name from Kibra to Kibera, the corrupted name adapted soon after independence. This was intentionally done to distort the history of the area.
Kibra is now a home to more than 500,000 people, a figure released by the civil society organizations. The national census done in the year 2009 put the figure at 250,000, this latter figure is largely believed to be a distorted figure.
Majority of the population are people who invaded the area for political or economic reasons. Cheap and affordable housing in the area made it attractive to people who earn low salaries, and at the same time politicians invited their supporters to gain voting power.
This great influx of people in Kibra made it to be the largest slum on Africa.
Challenges facing the Kenya Government.
Among the challenges facing the government and those who want to resolve the land question in Kibra are:
1. Competing rights between the Nubians, who settled in Kibra more than 100 years ago, even before Nairobi became a city, and migrants who have continuously been settling there since after independence.
2. Political competition between major tribes like the Luos and the Kikuyus. Each one trying to outnumber the other.
3. Economical interest of those who believe they have a right to the piece of land they have invaded: owning a land in Kibra is a bog deal, and they will use any means available to protect their interests.
Challenges facing the Nubian Community
1. Uncertainty about the government giving back the Kibra land to the Nubian community. This issue of Kibra land has been internationalized through media, Human Right bodies, and the African Court. But the government s still quiet.
2. The community has to continue keeping the government under pressure claiming their rights and internationalize the issue. Use international organizations and international law. Tickle the mind of decision makers.
3. The community must always remain united, unity is critical to delivering a clear message to the government.
4. Community must be organized.
5. The community must be sensitive to the unfulfilled promises given by the successive governments about the Kibra land. On the contrary, tensions were created between the Nubians and other communities, while the politicians from the major tribes incited their followers to violence.

Writing this article was never about making money. However, the small donation I plead for is for helping me cover blogging expenses in the long journey I intend to make advocating for reforms of the marginalized minority,  and also engaging in other community matters.

Donation can be made via PayPal using the button below.



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Marginalised People of Kibra

Hi, friends

This is one of my first articles in this blog.
When starting anything new, it takes bit of time and practice. I know
how I feel – overwhelmed and frustrated, but with a lot of support and
help from new friends in this business, I have a hope that it is not
going to be as scary or as difficult.
When climbing a mountain you need to step up one step at a time. You
can’t suddenly be at the top by thought alone. You may run to get there
quicker – but you have more chance of stumbling on the way – mind you
had to learn how to walk first before you could run.
So after saying all these, I start my story:

Have you ever seen a slum – or lived in one. Well as for myself, I
happen to be born in a slum area – brought up there, and started my
schooling there.
To understand the agony of all these, let us look in our encyclopedia
for the meaning of the word slum. I chose to look in Wikipedia – the
free encyclopedia, which says – ‘ a slum as defined by the United
Nations agency UN- HABITAT, is a rundown area of a city characterized
by substandard housing and squalor, and lacking in tenure security. The
meaning fits very well with the area I am about to describe – Kibra.

Kibra is a village on the outskirts of Nairobi – the capitol city of
Kenya. It is situated approximately 12 kilometers on the west side of
the city center. Kibra slum is considered to be the second largest slum
in Africa , and third largest in the world. The area of Kibra
originally was about 4000 acres. This piece of land was a reward given
to the Nubian soldiers as an appreciation of their service in the army.
This story is not only about the slum – but the historical injustices
connected with the land.
The first settlers in Kibra were Nubians who were settled there by the
British in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

Citing the United NationsCommission of Human Rights ( UNHCR ), the community now living in Kibra are descendants of the Sudanese soldiers forcibly conscripted by the British in the 1800’s.

Nubian population.
Kenya has an estimated 100000 of these stateless people from the Nubian
ethnic community. This is according to the latest human right report
released by the US state department.

Kibra land row.
The land and Nubians living in Kibra are so historically, intricately intertwined that no amount of effort to downplay or ignore the row would end it.

Attempts to separate the two have always targeted turmoil and
volatility over the last decade or so. This state of affairs survived
the last century, and chances are that the status quo is likely to
remain for a long time to come as the security of tenure needs are not
The then heavily forested area of 4197.9 acres on the outskirts of
Nairobi – the capitol city of Kenya, was allocated the Nubians of the
then Kings African Rifles and their descendants in 1904, surveyed in
1917 and formally gazetted in 1918.
The beneficiaries immediately named the area ‘Kibra’, meaning in their
language ‘jungle infested by wild animals, as this area was part of the
larger Nairobi National Park.
The Nubians then created sub localities, (villages) like Makina, Lomle
etc. which they developed according to their needs, and under the
control of the colonial administrators.

The military handed over the administration to the civilian in 1928.
The colonial administrators left a legacy in form of a school they had
built in the heart of KIbra, which was opened by the then Governor of
Kenya – Sir Evelyn Baring, in 1953, (it is in this school where the
writer of this document received his first primary education).

A memorial plaque the governor unveiled during the function is still
there to this day. It bears the inscription: ‘This building
commemorates the gift of 2000 British pound from the Army Benevolent
Fund in grateful memory of the gallant and loyal service rendered by
the Sudanese soldiers who died for the couse of Eastern Africa in the
two world wars and whose descendant s will be taught in this school’

From the outset, Nubians formed close-knit family units based on
decency – they upheld strong values about hard work, perseverance,
honesty, integrity, respect for one another and good neighborliness.
It was the community cardinal understanding through specially
constituted group of elders, to ensure good and fair social order
prevailed and that the young were brought up practicing the values.

A typical Nubian homestead at the time consisted of a hut, few cattles
and a small farm – as prescribed and controlled by the local
administration. The environment was thus conducive to economic
development – practicing and maintaining the cultural heritage, and
preserving social activities such as weddings, burial, education,
sports and other forms of entertainment.

The Nubian then integrated freely with the other tribes in the
neighborhood – notably the Kikuyus, through trade and cultural
The Nubians were part of the development of Nairobi as a city. Self
employment at their village level provided essential retail goods and
services such as shops, hawking of fruits and vegetables.

In the years that followed, the Nubians gradually reduced ties with the British and moved towards sharing a common vision and goals with fellow Kenyans. As the struggle for independence gathered momentum in 1950’s and peaked in 1960’s, Nubians readily associated themselves with the nationalists political parties.

In the meantime the Nubians became more vocal in their demanding security of tenure for the Kibra land. This demand is still not met – but the momentum and the drive for the pursuit of the cause has not diminished one bit.

The scramble for the rapidly diminishing open land area show the shortcomings resulting from poor planning, deliberate lack of control by those in authority, and exploitation of weaknesses in land policies or lack of them. Nubians seem to bear the brunt of the unguided competition.

The unending disturbances in Kibra have their roots in the unresolved land question in the face of relentless competition brought about by uncontrolled urban migration in search of employment and affordable accommodation.

The influx has been brought about mainly by politicians who wish to settle potential voters on what they refer to as government land – which implies that there is no control as to who is eligible for settlement. This resulted in a free-for-all and survival of the fittest.

The migration was minimal in the 1960’s when the Nubian community had a representative in the government as area councilor, then as a member of parliament.

When the Nubian member of parliament was replaced with a non-Nubian, in 1975, the area started seeing a serious wave of migration into the area.
The inflow of non-Nubians did not reduce even with the entry of Mr. Philip Leakey – a Kenyan of British origin as the member of parliament for Kibra in 1980’s.


To the Nubians, Mr. Raila Odinga’s political entry in 1990’s (member of parliament from a dominating tribe), further increased the influx in the area. The numbers had grown probably almost exponentially.

The wave had the chilling effect of numerical domination of the area by different groups of non-Nubians – signaling the nudging of the Nubians to the periphery.

The reality now is that there is no more land area left to accommodate more immigration into Kibra. The land is badly congested and therefore the third largest slum in the world. The area is becoming increasingly  difficult to government to control.

At the start of the settlement, the ratio of non-Nubians to Nubians was 1:4, but by the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Nubian numerical advantage had been reversed – and the newcomers outnumbered them by 2:1. It is therefore not surprising that today it is estimated that the Nubians are in the minority in the ratio of 12:1.

In the current seemingly ethnicity based political order in Kenya, what chance do Nubian have for representation other than through nomination as a minority group where lobbying rules are undefined.

During the colonial time, the the administration major role was to control settlement in Kibra by issuing permits to enter the area, and providing security. This power was used to maintain a balance between the available economic resources and the population – which they could comfortably sustain without compromising security and social order.

After independence the administration gradually lost control because of pressure from the growing new political posturing and administration officials personal commercial interests.

Today it is not a secret that a significant number of uncontrolled housing structures in Kibra are owned by former provincial administration officials who, together with vested interests, also dominate businesses. Thus the original homestead configuration enjoyed by the Nubians have disappeared.

The government nobble objective soon after independence was to provide affordable housing in keeping with better urban planning and avoiding the mushrooming of uncontrolled structures.

Today, six estates have been built in the Nubian land between 1963 and 1977. Although it was expected that the people to benefit from the new estates would be Nubians – the reality was different. Through the combination of skewed allocation and prohibitive eligibility criteria, mostly financial, most deserving Nubians who had lost their villages were locked out. They were constrained to join the scramble for housing in the growing slum.

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