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Preface Hélène Charton-Bigot The joint draft publication on the city of Nairobi was initiated in June 2000 by a team of researchers working under the aegis of the French Research Institute in Africa (IFRA) on the institute’s projects. Nairobi Today adds to a collection on contemporary African states with a new series dedicated to East African cities. The publication of “Nairobi Today” completes this series. This type of publication gives quality information to French-speaking readers on the often little-known English-speaking East Africa. This project took time to gestate and take shape. During its long gestation period it experienced a number of changes which have come to quite             Like other colonial cities, Nairobi is a product of British colonisation. It       colonial development to serve as a resting point during the construction of the Uganda Railway linking Mombasa and Lake Victoria. It later overtook Mombasa and its old town tradition to become the capital of the protectorate, then the colony. It seems Nairobi, due to its beginnings and character, was a stopover and        !  creation as a white city whose geography adhered to strict racial segregation, Nairobi served as a station for colonial civil servants on roving duty in various British Empire territories and a replenishment centre for the settlers living in the Highlands. Indian communities, settled in Nairobi from the beginning of the 20th century, were displaced from the city centre following a plague outbreak in the Indian bazaar. They resettled in the eastern part of the city. As for the Africans, the city was obviously not meant for them. They were tolerated for the city’s functional needs like domestic workers, casual employees in government and private companies like the Railways,        Africans could not own land pre-empted by the Crown. They therefore settled informally or illegally wherever they could in unoccupied parts of the city with an ever-present threat of expulsion hanging over their heads. During the period between the two wars, demographic pressure in the African reserves and new economic constraints imposed by colonisation led  "   #    came to try their luck in Nairobi in a bid to obtain employment and get the x NAIROBI TODAY       "    in the unoccupied spaces alongside the colonial city. The African city emerged more as a juxtaposition of residential areas created in accordance with colonial  %&       '   informal African “village” of the city. The demobilised soldiers settled in Kariokor, while Railway workers, who were mainly the Luo from western Kenya, settled in Lhandies. Although Africans were the majority, they were peripheral second-class zone dwellers. Up to the Second World War, there was no public policy or urban department for Africans in the capital. As far as the colonial authorities were concerned, it would be tantamount to accepting and legitimising the presence of these people in Nairobi. It seems, therefore, that insecurity was the very nature of African presence in Nairobi. It is upon this paradox that the city’s identity is based. The African population became so much part of the insecurity of urban life that it not only affected their status but primarily, their identity as well. Though this insecurity was a product of the colonial set-up, it persisted after the country’s  *         urban landscape. Admittedly, racial segregation disappeared but it gave way to a more subtle form of social segregation. Today, just as it was during the colonial period, a large section of the city population still lives in informal residential areas, in some cases, inherited by several generations living under virtually illegal or insecure conditions. These people were seemingly diverse: migrants, whose families had been left behind in the village, women who had established themselves in the city as prostitutes, youths who had illegally             in the city, Kibera Nubians, Indians and Pakistanis, etc. It is perhaps this piecemeal blend of residential areas and communities that makes the city what it is today and gives it its rather unique nature. Each of the residential areas and communities has over time emerged as a strong identity. Consequently, it is not a unique identity that one should look for in Nairobi but a multi-identity or identities which correspond to various fragments that are part of the city and also to the differentiated dynamics that is observed at the level of each village, each residential area. In addition, Nairobi is by default           #   with its shantytowns and soaring crime, which bring the failure of urban policies into sharp focus. It is these shadowy slum areas that are paradoxically used...


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