I’ve landed…

By Monica Richardson | May 31, 2009 | Kenya

Down to business

The team of editors with the International Reporting Project leave from D.C. Dulles Airport Saturday and arrive in London about 7 a.m. Sunday, we then head to Kenya. The flight to London was about 6 hours; 8 hours to Kenya from London.

The group of editors is a very smart and impressive group. Before leaving D.C., Stephen Ndegwa, lead public sector governance specialist for The World Bank, talks to the group about the politics and government in Kenya. He also talks about the major contrasts between wealth and poverty. Now, says Ndegwa, is a \"very fluid moment in [Kenya's] history shaped by the 2007/08 elections.\"

Even after the elections there are no clear rules for distribution of resources, he said. The underlying theme today is a Democratic transition that has not yet had an impact. Poverty is still a major crisis here.

Of Obama, Ndegwa said: \"Obama is a Kenyan but he's a bigger hero to the Kogelo region (where his father grew up). The expectations of what that aura can do is bigger there. People have quickly recognized he is a U.S. president and the U.S. will deal with Kenya as a country. Obama is great ... he would not be elected in Kenya\" because his politics are too driven to appeal to his broader vision of politics.

There is a perception that Kogelo has benefited from Obama as U.S. President but that is not the case. In fact, it is one of the poorest areas in the region.

We arrive at the airport to meet our guide Sam who is anxious to give us more on the politics in Kenya. (I am surprised that the airport is so undeveloped. I was expecting something more given the amount of traffic that visits. Yet the airport is very unkept and small.) On the hotel ride, our guide also talks about the extreme poverty compared to the wealth here. He says 10 percent controls 80 percent of the business interests in Kenya. There are 3 million people in Kenya, yet a third -- more than a million -- are in the slums. He's urged to save some of the info for Monday when the group is more refreshed. From the airport we learn that the paved road we take to our hotel -- the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel -- was built using dollars from China which has taken a big interest in Kenya. That road from the airport is one of the best roads in the area, free of potholes.

Monday is a holiday in Kenya -- Kenya's Independence Day -- Madaraka Day.

We will head for the Kibera informal settlement and visit various community organizations including the Pamoja radio station. We'll also meet district officers, chiefs and elders, volunteer community cleaners.

We'll visit one of the world's (yes, the world's!) largest slums.

After that we'll have a roundtable discussion with students from the University of Nairobi about the future of Kenya. Come back Tuesday and read about it.

View All Posts By Monica Richardson

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