A group of residents of South C Ward have taken an active role in public participation as mandated by the 2010 Constitution of Kenya. With the impending El Nino rains, expected to cause floods in a Ward that has been jokingly branded “South Sea”, many have began to appreciate the power that an active community holds in the context of devolution. One objective of devolution articulated in the Constitution was “to give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them”.
The activities of some members of the “South C Ward Action Team” have been more visible during the El Nino Mitigation efforts by the County government. Drainage and flooding issues in the Ward are a top priority which may explain why FixMyWard has witnessed new members to the groups they administer.
But the participation by residents has not began with the El Nino fears.
Through FixMyWard.org, the residents have leveraged technology for identifying problems in their Ward and monitoring service delivery. They have posted issues on the “Fix South C Ward” website – http://fix.southcward.co.ke – being developed by FixMyWard.org
To ensure that residents continue to be active, technology solutions being developed by FixMyWard will become handy. Apart from the service monitoring website, the residents have action committees on Whatsapp groups, Facebook and Twitter social media pages and a Youtube video site. These technologies complement the formal and informal consultation meetings that have include a residents’ informal MeetUp held in August at the College of Insurance.
Efforts to improve public participation in South C have involved many strategies ranging from community cleanups, mobilisation of private sector players, TownHall Consultations and outreach using social media and other technology solutions. These work began in 2012 through social media and has grown to encompass many activities “on the ground”.
Previously, FixMyWard had mobilised community members online and offline before presenting their agreed priorities during the Ward-level Budget Hearings for 2015/16 and 2017/18 held in January 2015. At the event, County officials worked with residents to list priorities for each sector.
Community Clean-Ups were used as opportunities to spur civic awareness, informal consultations between the elected MCA, residents and the business community. In February 2015, FixMyWard involved the Senator of Nairobi City County who provided equipment and engaged youth workforce from the Ward to assist in the Community Clean-Up. Many other activities are listed on the FixMyWard website and the South C Ward projects website.
In partnership with Onward Kenya, FixMyWard organised TownHall consultations (independently organised Citizen Forum) in South C Ward on 11th April 2015 during which residents engaged with the elected Member of the County Assembly (MCA), Ward Development Fund (WDF) officials, South C Ward’s representative to the Langata CDF (Constituency Development Fund) Committee and representatives of the Langata Constituency Member of Parliament (MP).
The South C Ward Action Team has continued its advocacy/lobbying on CDF projects through the Ward CDF Representatives. For example, in protecting the public spaces such as the South C Children’s Playground and collaborating in identifying alternative land in the Ward for the Chief’s Office (CDF project team and Lang’ata MP).
There have also been consultations between residents and the WDF Chairman for South C Ward on implementation of project priorities such as rehabilitation of the Children’s Playground, amongst others. This was done during and after the first ever TownHall Forum held in April.
There are ongoing petitions to the County Assembly through the MCA on issues of urban planning and Waste Management in partnership with private players (i.e. private primary school in the Ward).
More recently, the Executive Director of FixMyWard.org – Eng. Wainaina Mungai – was elected onto the Langata Subcounty Public Participation Board. He shall serve as Chairman, Lands, Physical Planning, Roads & Transport Public Works Committee. Other residents of South C Ward managed to take up the roles of Chairman, General Service Delivery and Monitoring Committee; Secretary, Resource Mobilisation & Finance Committee and Treasurer, Environment Committee. The Committees will be responsible for public participation issues in all five Wards in Langata SubCounty (namely; Nairobi West, Mugumoini, Karen, Highrise and South C Wards).
The El Nino feature on NTV news and the social media campaign supported the efforts to meet and consult with officials of Kenya Airports Authority on their role in the flooding of South C Ward. Despite the meetings at the Kenya Airports Authority offices at Wilson Airport, the Authority has been compelled to respond directly to residents on social media.
However, residents have also gathered evidence that the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) had dug trenches within Wilson Airport and channels along its outer fence to direct storm water to one final trench that carries all water to South C estate at Midland Estate. The Wilson Airport blames the Kenya National Highways Authority (KENHA) for failing to compel their contractor – China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CR&BC) to install culverts across the Southern ByPass. With the culverts in place, the KAA claims, they will redirect their carefully collected storm water towards the National Park.
The participation by residents in efforts to mitigate against El Nino have seen members of various groups and political affiliations join hands to address a common challenge. The practical response by residents began on Saturday, 12th September when residents toured the Ward with Engineers from the County Government. They later highlighted their concerns in a meeting with the County Executive for Transport, Roads and Public Works – Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi – in the presence of the MCA for the Ward – Hon. Dianah Kapeen. The meeting was held at the Nairobi Muslim Academy, which is one of the flooding hotspots that required urgent attention.
Residents later held follow-up consultations with the County Executives for Urban Planning (Tom Odongo) and the County Executive for Roads on Monday, 14th September 2015 at City Hall.
The ongoing process of monitoring the quality of work by the County Government is being handled by a team of residents; with each team focusing on a specific flooding hotspot. Several monitoring visits have been made by County Executives and their Engineers to the hotspots and meetings held with, among others, the Kenya Airports Authority whose intervention would remedy their unjustifiable act that leads to flooding.
Through these public participation efforts, residents have been able to highlight the flooding zones and the main causes of floods in their estates. In particular, Wilson Airport, managed by the Kenya Airports Authority, drains its storm water directly into the Ward. This was the case witnessed in October 2014 at Mildlands Court and ParkView Apartments when a perimeter wall was destroyed by storm water from Wilson Airport. A similar situation was witnessed during lighter precipitation in April/May 2015. Many other homes were flooded downstream. A satellite image of the trenches dug by the Wilson Airport management clearly shows the offending trenches. Residents have taken the County Executive for Roads and his engineers to the trenches dug by Kenya Airports Authority who instead of directing water to the National Park, have continued to blame KENHA and CRBC for failing to create culverts across the Southern ByPass. In the meantime KAA have themselves not taken any corrective measures to reverse their actions that lead to flooding in South C.
In an attempt to ensure KAA reverse their action at Wilson Airport, residents brough the matter up for discussion during the Langata SubCounty Stakeholders Forum. They have also submitted reports to the attention of the Governor through the Ward Administration, the Member of Parliament and the County Executives to ensure the storm water from within and around Wilson Airport is diverted to the Nairobi National Park.
Their efforts are yet to deliver the desired final results. But some fruits have began to sprout. Vigilant residents have observed activity at the existing and blocked culverts that drain water from Phenom Estate on the Western side of the airport towards the National Park. The measure of success for all concerned parties lies in ensuring that the “South Sea” infamy is averted before the onset of El Nino rains.
The need for public participation in development is more pronounced in light of the squabbling between government agencies that have the solution at hand and are also the cause of the problem. The two agencies control critical infrastructure, which if not handled with a sense of duty to protect, many innocent lives may be lost and property destroyed.
Like many middle-class neighbourhood, South C has faced challenges of representation and low levels of public participation. Most residents have been absent from WDF, CDF and other forums that resulted from their devolved governments. However, the pace of change is picking up and many will continue to witness the benefits of participation.