The first day l went campaigning in Starehe, l was scared. I was overwhelmed with emotion just walking up to strangers and introducing myself as a candidate. It has been more than two months since then. There are so many places I haven’t been to yet.
I have met shopkeepers, hawkers, mechanics, cart pullers, boda boda operators, matatu drivers and touts, vegetable sellers and residents. Many of the people I have met are hardworking Kenyans in the informal sector. They go through the same challenges my mother and l went through as we hawked books in the city centre. They are harassed by kanju and arrested for no reason.
They do not feel safe in their places of work and their homes. Their places of work, the markets of Starehe, are dirty, polluted and clogged with garbage. Traders not only pay the county government fees for the market but they also pay to use the market toilets. In Grogon, mechanics work in spaces occupied by garbage and have no toilets.
The public primary school I attended now has a private secondary school within the compound. Most of its land has been grabbed. Five other schools are occupied by grabbers. The social centres that were the pride of Eastlands, where great leaders like Tom Mboya started their careers, and where young people trained and went on to win Olympic and Commonwealth gold medals, are pale shadows of their former selves.
Residents who have lived in Pangani, Ngara and Ziwani for decades, some since before Independence, are being evicted. I recently marched with residents of Matopeni, a settlement in Starehe, to the Inspector General of Police’s office after they were served with an eviction notice. They have lived there for more than 20 years.
I have met people used to handouts who have asked me for money. I have none to give. I believe the bribes politicians give are recovered from public funds when they assume office. I refuse to perpetuate a culture that I condemn. But I have also seen hope and been encouraged. I have met people willing to listen to me and challenge me. I have met people who are not afraid to ask hard questions.
I have met generous people with big beautiful hearts. A cobbler in Kariokor made me a pair of shoes. A rider gave me a free boda boda ride and told me that was his contribution to my campaign. I wish I could remember all their names and those of everyone who has told me their story. Many evenings I have gone home overwhelmed by the difficulties people face because our leaders have failed.
Starehe has more than 190,000 voters — l look forward to your support. For the five million Nairobians who work and interact with the city every day, my candidacy will fight for a friendlier and safer CBD which we can all enjoy working in. Nairobi needs to be safe for all of us. It’s not the big things that will create an impact, but basic things like footpaths and garbage bins.
Nairobi can be better, and I will work with the county government to make that possible. As an MP, l will dedicate myself to checking the corruption and greed in my fellow leaders so that the hard-earned tax Kenyans pay is used to serve them. I will fight for laws that benefit every Kenyan. I will stand up and continue to speak fearlessly about the issues affecting my people in Starehe and make sure they receive the assistance they need. The era of leaders who only care about themselves and those close to them is over.
Starehe is the beating, breathing heart of Kenya. We are the home of the CBD, Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the offices of the President and Deputy President. We are the home of the University of Nairobi and the Central Bank of Kenya. We are great! Nairobi was born in Starehe. The oldest street in this city is ours. The oldest buildings in this city are ours. The biggest archives of Kenyan history, the Kenya National Archives and the National Museums of Kenya, are ours. We are the soul of this nation.
And now, we must be the ones who must walk a brave new road towards accountable leadership that listens and works for its people. Starehe needs a courageous citizen who isn’t afraid to demand better and fight for us. We all want a better country. It is Starehe’s turn to lead Kenya once more. Give me a chance to serve you.
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