- People’s room for manoeuvre in a fragmented city: state housing in Kibera, Nairobi
- Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa
- Volume 93, 2017
- p. pp. 116-141
- View Citation
In Kenya, the direct provision of housing by the state is limited to slum upgrading and housing for state employees. In Nairobi, the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) aims to reconstruct Kibera, one of the city’s largest slums, with multi-story housing. The stated goal is to rehouse the current dwellers of Kibera. However, Kibera is a melting pot of vested interests of central and local state-actors, urban dwellers and quasi-legal landlords. Its iron and mud shacks are representative of the drastic socio-spatial fragmentations of Nairobi. KENSUP brings elemental changes to Kibera’s built space, economic possibilities and social relations. It expresses some of the vested interests of actors and puts others at play – thus it reflects broader African urban governance issues. This makes it an insightful platform for the examination of state-society interactions in an African city. Given the struggles around land ownership as well as broader housing market dynamics, gentrification is an apparently inevitable outcome of the project. This article addresses the struggle for access to, and the living conditions in the ‘decanting site’, until 2016 the only inhabited housing estate of the project. It highlights people’s potential to shape events within the KENSUP project, to make use of the permanent uncertainty the project brings about, and to expand the minimal room for manoeuvre that it leaves for those living in, or refusing to move to, the housing estate.