Kenya: Mother Names Her Baby After Activist Who Helped Her During Kariobangi Demolitions

On the morning of May 4, 2020, approximately 8,000 people were forcibly removed from the impoverished Kariobangi neighbourhood of Nairobi and their houses flattened.

This was despite a court order issued the day before restraining the authorities from conducting evictions.

The demolitions also happened when the country was grappling with the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government only gave last-minute notification and did not provide food, temporary shelter, access to water and sanitation or any type of compensation to the affected families.

LEFT HOMELESS

Thousands of people were left homeless and in need of urgent assistance. One of them Margaret Njoki, a pregnant mother of three.

Human rights defender Ruth Mumbi and her colleagues David Wanyoike Warui, Beatrice Karore and Simon Kokoyo rushed to the scene and gathered and published testimonies of the victims, while encouraging human rights organisations and journalists to document the impact of the displacement.

Mumbi and her colleagues raised awareness of the dire humanitarian situation and collected funds to assist the evicted families.

The story of Njoki touched the hearts of the human rights activists and many other Kenyans.

A few days after finding Njoki a temporary camp, Mumbi with her colleagues took her to a nearby hospital after they found out that she was bleeding.

At the hospital, the doctor informed Njoki that it was due to the stress and trauma she had been subjected to during the demolitions.

Njoki says she thought she would not make it and she decided to write her last wishes telling anyone who would find her baby - in case the child survived - to name her after Mumbi.

BUNDLE OF JOY

"I wrote a note to the doctor, in case I do not make it alive, whoever picks the baby should name the baby Ruth Mumbi, who has walked with me in these trying times. That is why the baby is now named Ruth Mumbi," she said.

Mumbi says that she decided to reach out to a well-wisher and informed him of Njoki's situation. The well-wisher in turn provided a new home for Njoki in Korogocho and has since May, been catering for Njoki and her children.

The bundle of joy arrived on July 8.

On the baby being named after her, Mumbi says she is overwhelmed by the love and recognition of her little effort.

"In many cases people don't appreciate the work of human rights activist. Njoki had no money or any form of appreciation apart from naming the baby after me," Mumbi said.

Before the demolitions, Njoki eked out a living as a mama mboga. Her small kibanda was also demolished.

Her husband left her when she was four months pregnant.

At the moment the family is doing well but still depends on the well-wisher for their daily upkeep.

The first round of evictions began on May 4, 2020 in the Kariobangi North Sewerage settlement and surrounding areas.

OUT IN THE COLD

The day before, a court order had suspended the evictions pending a court hearing. But officials from the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company, accompanied by police, ignored the court order.

They arrived early in the morning and evicted thousands of residents, including children, from about 600 households.

Homes, churches, shops, and schools were all flattened. That night thousands of affected residents slept out in the cold.

No alternative housing was provided despite the government's dusk-to-dawn Covid-19 curfew requiring people to stay at home or risk penalties.

Kariobangi North MCA Julius Njoka condemned the demolitions, accusing the government of being inhumane at a time when the country is battling the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the affected residents were allocated the land by the defunct Nairobi City Council in 2008.

"This is the wrong time to carry out eviction and demolitions leaving people who are already facing an economic crisis due to Covid-19 homeless. This is inhumane. Most of these people are elderly and others have young families and now they have nowhere to go to and will be forced to live in shanties in groups which might lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases," the MCA said at the time.

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