Kibera - the community

Kibera is a busy, densely-populated community on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. It has been there for a very long time and many families have lived there for four or five  generations. Since independence from Britain in 1963, (having been under British control since 1888), the community has been declared an 'illegal settlement', but it was not always so. As a result, the slum dwellers today have very few rights, there are no government funded facilities such as schools, clinics and libraries, although two public water pipes were installed some years ago. Schools and medical facilities are almost exclusively provided by charities - some local, some from afar.


Nairobi was founded in 1899 when the Uganda Railway line was built. It was home to the company's headquarters and the British Colonial Government offices were located there. The railway line today runs through Kibera and serves as a useful but dangerous 'pathway' through the slum. It was called the 'Uganda Ralway' because it connected the East coast port of Mombasa with the borders of Uganda. It is, in fact, exclusively in Kenya.


















The British colonial administration intended to keep Nairobi as a home for Europeans and temporary migrant workers from Africa and Asia. The migrant workers were brought into Nairobi on short-term work contracts for the service sector, as railway manual labour and to fill administrative posts in the colonial government.

Between 1900 and 1940, the colonial government passed a number of laws which basically segregated people of different backgrounds and ethnicity. Africans could live in segregated groups in 'reserves' at the edge of the city.


One group, Nubian soldiers, primarily of Sudan and Southern Egyptian origin, were not permitted to dwell in the ‘reserves’. They were therefore given rights to live in Kibera, sometimes called ‘Kibra’ a Nubian word meaning Forest or Jungle. The soldiers had served the military interests of the British colonial army in the Kings African Rifles (KAR) and were given plots of land in Kibera as a reward for their service in the early 1900s.


Over the years many others have joined the community by renting property from Nubian landlords and today there are thirteen ‘villages’ each with its own distinctive cultural identity. Although a census was taken in 2009, true numbers remain a mystery with estimates varying from 250,000 to over a million. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that this is the largest urban slum in Kenya, and probably the largest in Africa.

The railway line

running through Kibera

A street behind the school

Open sewers are in every street

The Academy

Kibera Free Methodist Academy, to give its full title, has over three hundred children from the ages of 4 to 13. The children all live in the vicinity of the school. Many come from single parent families, but all are from homes with very low incomes. Unemployment is high in Kibera.

More to follow.