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?