Reclaiming Muthurwa Dallas Social Hall
Kenyan youths have on several occasions put their country on the world map through sporting prowess. In the World Cross Country Championships held in Poland in March 2010, Kenya won 21 medals, 16 of which were Gold. In the recently concluded All African Games in Maputo, Kenya performed well in athletics, but a dismal performance was recorded in indoor sport such as boxing. With increasing commercialisation of sporting activities and greater opportunities for young professional athletes, many young Kenyans are engaging in sports as a way of improving their standard of living rather than simply as a pastime.
In the history of pugilism in Kenya, Muthurwa Dallas, a Kenya Railways Corporation estate, was famous as a boxing power house. The youths from this community formed a larger part of Kenya National Boxing Team; this crème de la crème group natured their talent at Muthurwa Dallas Social Hall.
Around 2006 the government of Kenya and the City Council of Nairobi were faced with a problem of relocating thousands of small-scale traders (hawkers) operating within Nairobi Central Business District. That year the government allocated Ksh800 Million from the national budget for construction of a major market. The most convenient area that could accommodate this populace was Muthurwa estate on Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) land. A controversy ensured over the sale of the said 15 acres by KRC in partnership with Kenya Railways Staff Retirement Benefit Scheme (KRSRBS). Corruption and controversy marred the exercise, undervaluation of the land ensued. Going by market value then an acre was about Ksh65 million. The land could have fetched more than Ksh975m (2008/2009 financial report: Kenya Railways Staff Retirement Benefit Scheme by Delloite and Touche).
In 2006/7 election campaign, the President Republic of Kenya visited Muthurwa for the groundbreaking ceremony of the proposed market. Community representatives petitioned the president to spare the historic Muthurwa Dallas Social Hall. The request was made to the president by then Mayor of Nairobi Dick Wathika and reinforced by then Minister for Local Government Musikali Kombo. Verbally the president directed that the facility be spared and returned to the community for recreational and educational purposes once the market was completed.
In March 2008 when the market was officially opened by then Minister of Local Government Uhuru Kenyatta, the community reiterated their request to the minister. But when they tried to access the facility they were informed that the market was incomplete and still under construction, therefore the social hall was unavailable as the contructor, Ongata Construction Company Ltd, was using it.
Several months later after the market was operational, several banking institutions tried to open branches within the facility and this led the community to petition the government, President, the Attorney General and Minister for local government. The City Council of Nairobi through the office of Town Clerk and the local councilor have collaborated in denying the community access and use of this historical sporting facility. On the other hand the community had highlighted this request in the media.
Come 2010, the residents of Muthurwa estate instituted a court case, petition No 65 0f 2010 challenging the government, KRC and KRSRBS on the basis of the Bill of Rights, economic and social rights Article 43 (b) to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation. Hon justice Musinga in his ruling observed that. “Under International law general comment number 4 of the United Nations, office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, the right to housing comprises various elements. These include availability of services, materials, recreational facilities and Infrastructures, location which allows access to employment options, health care services, schools, child care centers and other social facilities.”
According to 2009 national census Kamukunji Constituency had approximately 180,000 households, residing in Nairobi City Council’s 15 estates. With this population the number of public recreational facility are three, that is St.Theresa Catholic Church Hall, YMCA Shauri Moyo Hall and Pumwani Social Hall.
Several petitions have been submitted to the government by the community reclaiming the facility but with no success. The campaign to reclaim the facility was highlighted when the community participated in the Ministry of Housing 2009 National Housing competition dated 24 -29 June under the banner, ‘Saving Kenya Railways Assets and Land’. A certificate of participation was awarded, and the Minister for Housing noted the important role such a facility played to advance youth development. The same year the community submitted a project titled, ‘Reclaiming Muthurwa Dallas Social Hall’, on United Nation International Year of reconciliation, a program run by the Foundation for Subjective Experience and Research.
It’s noteworthy that in 1986 the first Olympic Gold Medal in boxing came through Robert Modest Wangila Napunyi whom resided within the estate and regularly trained at the facility. Among many other outstanding personalities to emerge from the facility in 1980s Commonwealth Champions were Steve Muchoki (Dessty) Gold Medalist, Mike Irungu (Stone) Common Wealth Bantam weight-Gold Medalist, Michael Mutua (Spinks). Kings Cup – Gold medalist-Ibrahim Bilali Senior (Surf), 1986 Olympics Heavy weight- Gold medalist Robert Napunyi Wangila, 1988 All African Games Championship - Gold Medalist-David (Harish) Ouma, Kings Cup – Gold medalist - Light weight - Kaleb Kuya, All African Games - Gold medalist. Ali Athumani, Intercontinental Championship Gold medalist bantam weight Olympics Sydney silver medalist Suleiman Bilali (Sere), among others.
With an estimated 9,520 voters in Muthurwa Ward several national, regional elections and by-elections have been held in the facility. The community requested Kamukunji Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to renovate the facility. A shoddy job was done at Ksh1.5 Million.
The community representatives are of the view that a Public Private Partnership (PPP) in managing the recreational facility will assist the community to own and initiate more educational and recreational amenities, this will supplement efforts in advancing youth involvement in sporting opportunities and job creation thus it will contribute towards mitigating the youth’s drug use and abuse.
The Muthurwa residents plan to work closely with several institutions such as Kenya Judiciary, Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Ministry of National Heritage, Ministry of Gender and development and Ministry of Local Government.
Since its understandable that the market carries with it a social-fabric implication we intend to work closely with the government to implement several proposed projects, among them offering active indoor recreational amenities such as pugilism, Karate, Judo, tae-kwondo, weightlifting, and others.
There is also a plan for multi-generational activities, groups training on public safety, crime reduction and prevention strategies and corresponding and networking with youths from international and national educational groups. Others are plans to training groups on human rights, right to adequate housing prevention of forced evictions, strengthening the citizen’s security of tenure, secure tenancy and adequate housing.
We also intend to create avenues on gender equality and social inclusion in job opportunities and sports, women’s empowerment and access to resources (control) offering women safety strategies, strengthening and collaborating on probation and rehabilitation of petty offenders and offering counseling to delinquents. The community plans to establish a lawyers complaints desk to address the issues of irresponsible lawyers especially those involved in land cases and accident compensation. We plan to train the youths and community on disaster management/emergency responsiveness, offering various civic awareness programs on governance, economy, health crises, and conflict and terrorism education .Youths will be regularly trained on first aid, emergency response and post-disaster rehabilitation.
Among the opportunities that will be realized will be investment development, capital formation and entrepreneurship training, cooperative formation opportunities and micro-credit access. Vocational trainings will be offered to (after school tuition) enterprise development program to (formal and informal) groups.
On environmental management we plan to focus on pollution reduction, environmental sound technologies remediation, environmental health, ecological sustainability, Green accounting and control. Environmental upgrading programs with youth focus initiatives. Since the country is moving towards new strategies on ICT, we plan to establish a Cyber Café and a movie theatre.
In line with the above amenities we plan to offer prevention and advocacy strategies to mitigate on the spread of HIV/AIDS ,foster care, PLWHA orphans child headed families support, holding Peer to Peer Exchanges and learning opportunities, young children’s will also benefit from child focused development initiatives.
Currently the facility is used for church ceremonies and other meetings. The community request to use the facility attracts a charge of about Ksh 5000.The overseer of the facility is a kin to the area councilor. According to the Kenya Gazette Notice No.12582, Vol CX11-No 102 dated 15-October,the Muthurwa Dallas Social Hall has not been listed as a City Council of Nairobi facility. A full council meeting resolution by the Social Services and Housing Committee on 3 February 2010directed the facility to be subdivided into five areas: that is boxing hall, taekwondo hall, youth recreational center, youth boutique and public social hall. But the area councilor in collaboration with businessmen within the market are the major obstacle in in the community’s quest.
Several organizations advocating for human rights and social justice have tried to intervene. Recently the community engaged the new Chief Justice Dr.Willy Mutunga about the community quest to reclaim and manage the facility. He consented to assist community representatives to engage the Attorney General in settling this matter. We hope through this intervention the community will be able to enjoy the facility.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Patrick Kamotho is a Fahamu Pan African Fellow.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Comment on this article.