It has been billed as Africa’s biggest slum and even by some accounts, the world’s largest. Some say it is home to two million people, others a million.
But the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census results released this week make everything you have heard about the size of Kibera improbable. Numbers do not lie, and figures from the 2009 census indicate that Kibera barely makes it to Nairobi’s largest slum.
According to the census figures, the eight locations that form Kibera slums combined host a paltry 170,070. These include Lindi, the largest, with 35,158 people; Kianda (29,356); Laini Saba (28,182); Makina (25,242); Gatwikira (24.991); Siranga (17,363); and Kibera (9,786).
Located five kilometers from the city centre, Kibera forms less than half of Langa’ta constituency. In the list of most populated constituencies, Lang’ata (185,836) comes third after Embakasi (925,775) and Kasarani (525,624).
Another major city slum, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, in Nairobi West with 130,402 people is slowly edging towards the largest slum in Kenya status. Throw in Mathare slum in Nairobi North with 87,097 people and you begin to understand why Kibera has never been Africa’s largest slum.
For a long time Kibera has been touted as Africa’s largest slum, with various ‘experts’ putting its population at anything between one and two million. But the slum does not hold a candle to India’s Pharavi with one million. Brazil’s Rocinha Farela with a quarter million is probably the closest rival.
Yet, the United Nations states that up 16 million Kenyans live in Slums. In its report titled Percentage Change in Slum Populations in Africa between 1990 and 2010, UN Habitat states that between 40 and 50 per cent of Kenyans live in slums. And Kibera has always been used as an illustration of Kenya’s slum life.
It turns out to one big lie. Not even the combined population living in all of Kenya’s slums comes anywhere close to the largest slum in Africa. According to the census, the total number of Kenyans living in slums is 618,916. “The population of people living in informal settlements has been exaggerated for a long time now,” says Kenya’s top census official, Dr Anthony Kilele.
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