John Mbugua: "I wouldn't work in Kibera again"

Clothes dealer John Mbugua, 27, lost his business when his stall in the Nairobi slum of Kibera was torched during post-election violence.
(Ann Wery/IRIN)

John Mbugua, 27, was a clothes dealer at Toy Market, a popular second-hand clothes open-air market in Kibera, one of the largest slums in sub-Saharan Africa, in the capital, Nairobi. Kibera was also one of the worst-affected areas in the post-election clashes that followed the disputed results in December 2007. Mbugua talked to IRIN about his experiences in volatile Kibera.

“When the election results were delayed tension started rising. On that Sunday when they [the Electoral Commission of Kenya] finally announced the results, the situation became really bad. People started killing each other, looting and burning property.

“Our stall at the Toy Market, which I had run with my cousin since the year 2000, was burnt down in broad daylight the next day.

"I remember that Monday; we were at the stall trying to prevent looters from destroying our hard-earned property along with other stall owners but the looters were stronger than us.

"They beat us up and then started stoning us. We had to run for our lives to seek refuge elsewhere. We were not able to save any property because we did not expect the situation to become so bad. We lost clothes worth 100,000 shillings [US$1,470].

"As a result of the violence, the once popular market was turned into a no-go zone especially for the Kikuyu [the ethnic group to which President Mwai Kibaki belongs]. My cousin, who used to live in Kibera and owned some houses there, was also threatened and forced to leave.

"People would come knocking on doors and beat you up if you were not the correct tribe.

"On a good day we used to earn about 5,000 shillings per day but now we are not even sure how we will afford rent for the new house we have moved into outside Kibera.

"We are now relying on our families as we’ve become jobless.

"The situation in our country is very unfortunate. I think the two leaders should sit down and talk to end the violence so that the common man can see that there is no need for enmity.

"However, even if security is restored there is no place to return to, to restart our businesses, as the whole market is now under new ownership.

"Personally, I wouldn’t want to work in Kibera again.”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

Share this article
Join the discussion

Support The New Humanitarian

Your support helps us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.