Words: Michael Onsando
Image: Africa Uncensored
“To report to who? … This is Kenya my friend.”
– Kanjo Kingdom
These are the questions that we encounter in #KanjoKingdom.
Over the next four weeks Africa Uncensored explores what it is like to be a hawker in Kenya.
Kenya has an estimated 77 per cent of its work force working in the informal sector. This ranks as the highest employment of working population across Africa employed in the informal sector.
There are many factors driving Kenyans to work in the informal sector: the desire to be independent and build your own thing, perhaps the lack of an opportunity in a formal job among others.
In the eyes of the Kenyan government this is a double edged sword. Millions of Kenyans earn a living from the informal sector but the challenge the government faces is how does it tax those earning in the informal sector or even just legitimize the trade.
And so step in rouge county government officials and police officers who have turned milking and extorting bribes from millions of informal sector works in Nairobi. For these officials and police officers the extortion rings are a cash cow. An estimated Sh96 million is extorted from the informal sector workers in Nairobi every month from the county council officials and police officers.
Where does all this money go?
Kibubusa cha Kanjo explores this question, uncovering worlds of extortion, violence and a different set
of laws altogether. The kingdom itself has a hierarchy and structure of its own. The investigation will show that Nairobi is divided into zones within which only specific inspectorate officers can operate.
One researcher interviewed described the injuries seen as evidence of severe torture. The story of the Kanjo Kingdom may contain images that are slightly disturbing. It is impossible to tell such a story without dealing with the realities of violence. Fear, as the series uncovers, is a tactic that is used often. One of the ways fear is cemented is through violence. And Kanjo are not afraid of raining down punches when they have to.
And it’s not like the government is doing them much good. Charles Mwangi, a hawker, says “Kidero alituahidi katika plan yake eti tutapewa safe trading places. Uhuru alisema tutaitwa small sector traders, hakuna chochote kimefanyika.” Governer Evans Kidero promised them safe trading places in his plan. The president said they would be called small sector traders. Still, nothing has been done. Empty promises are all that is offered
The core of this story is straightforward. When the people who are meant to be managing, leading and organizing, use the same power to make themselves rich, there are victims. Real victims, real lives are destroyed. This story shows a corruption that affects millions of Nairobians. It exposes the mafia that operates within the government. It shows you what happens to those who refuse to get in line. Kibusbusa cha Kanjo is another story of a kingdom where might is, inevitably, right.
Update: 4th April 2016:
Kibubusa Cha Kanjo part 1 available now here.
Kano Kingdom part 1 available now here.