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Arror and Kimwarer: Theft on a Grand Scale

14 min read.

A footnote in a World Bank report dating back four decades inspired the mounting of fictitious dam construction projects in Elgeyo Marakwet to create avenues for the theft of billions of shillings in public funds.

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Arror and Kimwarer: Theft on a Grand Scale
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In a November 1983 report of a World Bank appraisal mission to Kenya to look into the Kiambere hydroelectric dam on the Tana River, then under construction, there is a small footnote about other Kenyan rivers with hydroelectric potential. One of those identified is the Arror River, a major tributary of the Kerio River in the North Rift. Arror is a Marakwet word that means “the river that flows and makes a loud sound” and, in the last few years, the river has more than lived up to its billing. It is the site of one of two phantom dam projects (the other is on the Kerio River near Kimwarer village) that have been used to siphon billions of shillings from public coffers. Even for a government with a well-earned reputation for thievery, the Arror-Kimwarer scam is a breath-taking and unparalleled display of corruption.

The idea of building a dam on the Arror River dates back to 1986. According to the Nation, at the time, Arror Dam was projected to cost KSh414 million, it never materialised but due to lack of funds. Answering a question in Parliament in February 2009, then Assistant Minister for Water and Irrigation, Mwangi Kiunjuri said that the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) commissioned an Italian firm to carry out a feasibility study for “dams for irrigation and hydropower generation in Arror River Basin” that “indicated the suitability of the project to generate hydropower and develop a potential area of about 6,460 acres of irrigation”. According to Kiunjuri, the project would add 70 megawatts to the national grid. However, according to figures cited by Kiunjuri, in the 23 years since the project was first proposed, the cost of the project had increased 42-fold, ballooning to Kshs16.8 billion which, he said, exceeded the entire allocation to his ministry.

Kiunjuri was answering a question from then Member of Parliament for Marakwet West, Boaz Kipchumba Kaino, about “plans to construct two dams for irrigation and hydropower generation in Arror and Chesuman Locations in Marakwet District . . . which were factored in the 1995-1996 development plan”. According to Kaino, “many studies have been carried out on the same project. Each study has come up with the same 70 megawatts potential.”

In September 2009, Kaino again put Kiunjuri on the spot regarding the two dams. While reiterating his answer from seven months before, the latter added that there had been a request in 1994 to build 11 small dams in the Kerio Valley, and that “the only attempt that has ever been made in that area to have a dam for irrigation and production of hydropower was in 1986,” an apparent reference to the Arror dam.

Interestingly, in these exchanges, there was no mention of a dam at Kimwarer, only at Chesuman, nearly 90 kilometres to the north. The plan for a multipurpose dam in Kimwarer appears to have been mooted sometime after the Arror dam. It is listed in the National Water Masterplan 1992 as one of 28 multipurpose dams for hydropower, irrigation, domestic water supply and flood protection and was said to be at the pre-feasibility level in a 2003 report for the World Bank, alongside “Sererwa Dam located on the Arror river”.

A decade later, when the National Water Masterplan 1992 was updated to the National Water Master Plan 2030, Kimwarer was listed together with Arror as one of six multipurpose dam projects in the Rift Valley Catchment Area “designed for hydropower and irrigation. According to information from the KVDA, the hydropower component of the Kimwarer Dam would have “an installed capacity of 20 MW”. By 2012, a pre-feasibility study had apparently been completed. The KVDA published the Request for Proposal for the new Arror project (which included Kimwarer in this latest version) in December 2014.

In 2015, there was a new commitment to the dam project from the Italian government. Then prime minister Matteo Renzi visited Kenya in July. It was his second trip to the continent in two years. Several European countries, including Italy, were indeed keen on strengthening their relationships in Africa at that time. The main International challenges were fighting global terrorism and curbing migration. Renzi was among the initiators of the Khartoum and Rabat Processes. Launched in Rome the previous year, the Khartoum Process was a platform for political cooperation amongst the countries along the migration route between the Horn of Africa and Europe. The European Union launched the EU Trust Fund for Africa in November 2015 in Malta, a tool “to deliver an integrated and coordinated response to the diverse causes of instability, irregular migration and forced displacement”. Renzi travelled to Ethiopia and Kenya in this context. (Renzi’s meeting with president Uhuru Kenyatta made the headlines less for its content than for a picture shared by The Star in which Renzi seemed to be wearing a bulletproof vest under his blazer.)

“During the visit of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to Kenya, SACE, Intesa Sanpaolo and BNP Paribas announced the finalization of a €306 million loan to finance the Itare Dam project, built by CMC-Ravenna on behalf of the Kenyan National Treasury”, the SACE press office reported the day after the visit of the Italian Export Credit Agency. Intesa Sanpaolo is among the biggest Italian banks while CMC, the Italian construction company awarded the project, would feature prominently in the Kenyan dams saga. CMC signed the contract in May 2015. Itare was the very first dam awarded to the Italians in 2014 but, like the others, the project has never been concluded. It is listed in the Kenya Vision 2030 project, an ambitious development plan that has been ongoing since 2008.

After Itare, public invitations to tender were issued for Arror and Kimwarer, dam projects that by July 2015 appeared to present a unique opportunity for Italian companies to invest in. Italy has had an historical presence in Kenya since 1966 when the San Marco space launch platform was built near Malindi, a town now dubbed Little Italy. San Marco is still used by the Italian Space Agency to launch satellites into space. Italians soon followed, making investments along the Malindi coastline, exploiting Kenya’s natural resources and gaining privileged access to the country in the process. These long-lasting ties did not prevent the failure of the dam projects, however, which turned out to be a political game rather than a development opportunity.

Itare was the very first dam awarded to the Italians in 2014 but, like the others, the project has never been concluded.

Yet when cancelling the Kimwarer dam project in 2019, the government, through a statement from State House, claimed that the dam, which by then was to cost KSh22.2 billion, was “neither technically nor financially viable”. The statement further said that a technical committee “formed following the discovery of irregularities and improprieties” surrounding the Kimwarer and Arror Dams, had established that no current reliable feasibility study had been conducted on the former. “The only feasibility study carried out on a similar project twenty-eight (28) years ago had revealed a geological fault across the 800 acre project area, which would have negative structural effects on the proposed dam”. If a feasibility study had shown this in 1991, why then was the dam included in the National Water Master Plan formulated a year later and again when the plan was updated over a decade later? And what accounts for the over 68-fold increase in the cost of the Arror project to KSh28.3 billion in 2009 from an initial KSh414 million in 1986? In fact, according to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, “Kimwarer and Arror dams were planned for during Mwai Kibaki’s government and the contract awarded to an Iranian company, which estimated the entire cost at Sh5 billion, now the figure has escalated to KSh63 billion”.

To get to grips with the saga surrounding the construction of the controversial dams, in late 2020 Dauti Kahura travelled to Elgeyo Marakwet County in the greater Rift Valley region, where the twin dams were to be built. It is one of the 20 smallest of Kenya’s 47 counties, with an area of 3,050 square kilometres and a population of slightly less than half a million people, according to the 2019 population census.

Agriculture is the county’s economic mainstay. Potatoes are grown in the highlands while in the flat middle belt, maize plantations dot the landscape. Fruits such as avocadoes, mangoes, pawpaw and grains such as green grams, sorghum and millet do very well in the Kerio Valley. The topography, climate and availability of water make the area ideal for the production of these crops.

The county’s biggest town is the world-famous Iten, renowned for producing elite athletes and world-class marathoners. But other than a huge banner announcing “You Are Now Entering Iten Home of World Class Athletes”, there is little else about the bustling little rural town that tells you anything about its great sons and daughters.

Leaving Eldoret in neighbouring Uasin Gishu headed north-east to Iten, one’s attention is drawn to the rolling plateau of hectares upon hectares of maize plantations that disappear into the horizon. It is harvest time, the morning sun is out and the ready-to-be-harvested maize stalks are arranged like igloos. Massey Fergusson and John Deer tractors and combine harvesters dot the landscape, an indication that maize farming is serious business here.

Speeding across the undulating flatland one comes across scores of lithe, mostly male, runners tackling the 38 kilometres between Iten and Eldoret, a morning ritual for runners who hope to one day break world marathon records. They are joined by a band of European athletes who are persuaded that by running alongside the amateur athletes, they will perhaps crack the secret to the Kenyans’ success in long-distance races.

The county’s biggest town is the world-famous Iten, renowned for producing elite athletes and world-class marathoners.

From Iten to Kapsowar is a distance of 46 kilometres, and the higher you climb the cooler it gets. Many of the matatus here are Probox saloon vehicles and although people are not packed inside them like sardines, the cars are driven at terrific speeds by chatty, confident drivers. Nine kilometres from Cheptongei, the road starts winding upwards as you approach Kapsowar trading centre.

At Kapsowar, the boda boda (motorcycle taxi) rider Kahura hires to take him to the bottom of the valley, where the Arror dam was meant to be built, says that few outsiders have shown interest in going down into the area. The dam was to be built in Marakwet West constituency between Hossen and Kipsaiya, two facing ridges that share a border on the valley floor. The rider says that KVDA officials had come here to persuade the people to agree to the proposal to build the dam. According to a report in the Business Daily newspaper, the officials had promised that locals would be compensated with up to five times as much land as they would give up for the two dams. KSh6 billion was promised as compensation to the more than 900 families that would be affected, although to date that too is yet to materialize.

“No dam was built,” says Salome Chebet, a local resident. “It was a huge con from our leaders. The only thing they put up was a container office, which served as a liaison office.” It has since been carted away. “With hindsight, it’s a good thing the dam was never built,” she says. “We no longer desire it because it was all a political con game from people who we elected and who claim to represent our interests.” Chebet says KVDA officials and elected representatives, including Marakwet West Member of Parliament William Kisang, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Governor Alex Tunoi Tolgos, had frequented Kapsowar to sell the imaginary dam to the people. In parliament in 2016, the then Senate Majority Leader, Murkomen had declared that, “under the Arror and Kimwarer Projects, it is expected that over 10,000 acres of land in Kerio valley will be irrigated. Through the project, there will be generation of 80 megawatts of hydropower as an enabler to manufacturing, provision of clean water for 80,000 households and livestock; and support to the Arror and Kimwarer rivers catchments’ conservation initiatives”.

The boda boda rider agrees with Chebet. “It is true. For a while, there was a flurry of activities at Kapsowar. The KVDA officials accompanied by these politicians would descend here hoping to convince the people of the viability of the said dam. But these were thugs, ready to fill their pockets.”

Indeed, the KVDA held several barazas where they extolled the virtues of the dam; how it would generate electricity, how the local people living up the valley—that has rich soils for growing fruits such as avocadoes, mangoes and pawpaw—would benefit. Strangely, some of the people Kahura spoke to had not heard about the compensation arrangements. “There is one thing they never addressed, even when pressed to do so: the compensation issue. How would they compensate the people? How much money were we talking about here? Where was the land where they would relocate the people as the dam was ostensibly being built? How suitable and viable was it in comparison to our land?” says the rider.

“You can imagine our consternation when we learnt that some of the money meant for the dam went into buying beddings and towels for a hotel,” says an angry Chebet. She is referring to a February 2019 claim by the Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, that a company had been awarded a tender to supply “towels worth Sh20 million, while another delivered tiles and carpets”. According to his investigators, over a hundred companies were awarded tenders to supply items that had little to do with the actual dam construction, including food and wine worth KSh17 million, bedsheets and airline tickets worth Ksh1.5 million. The scale of the pay-outs to individuals and companies for the supply of goods and services for the fictitious construction is astounding, amounting to KSh21 billion according to reporting by Citizen TV.

“All these were white lies,” observes Arap Cherop who has lived in Kaptoiyoi since 1983. Residents of Kaptoiyoi village, which is situated on the floor of the valley between Hossen and Kipsaiya, would have been the most affected because they would all have had to be relocated. “But where were we being relocated to?” he asks.

“The KVDA officials, sometimes led by their boss David Kimaiyo, on several occasions came here to apparently give us the benefits of the coming dam, which according to them, included irrigation and water for domestic use, but we also asked them questions and they couldn’t answer many of them,” he says.

According to residents, no compensation was ever paid, despite the disruptions to planting seasons between 2018 and 2020. Those Kahura spoke to said that after news of the scandal broke, the barazas that the KVDA used to hold all dwindled away.

Over a hundred companies were awarded tenders to supply items that had little to do with the actual dam construction.

Asked about the prospects for justice, the rider replies, “You’ve seen and heard for yourself. Money was eaten by our leaders, helped by the dubious Italians. But that’s the nature of our politics—very ethicized. It is our leaders who have short-changed their own people, but you know what? We can’t be counted on to expose them. It would be akin to exposing our dirty linen in public, so we’ll suffer in silence and when the elections come in 2022, we’ll be swept in a wave of euphoria, be reminded that we’re all Kalenjin and that one of our sons will be gunning for the ultimate seat. Can we surely afford to embarrass him at that critical juncture, everything else notwithstanding?”

The following day Kahura visited the site of the proposed Kimwarer dam, another phantom project, now cancelled, without anything to show for it on the ground. According to the Kenyan prosecutors, the dam was never approved by the Treasury. In 2019, CMC signed a bankruptcy agreement with the Court of Ravenna, the city on the Romagna coastline where CMC is headquartered. The bankruptcy agreement is a repayment plan that aims to avoid the closure of the company and save the jobs of its 5,454 employees. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down CMC’s activities and consequently, the company’s income for the past two years has been lower than expected. According to its 2020 balance sheet, CMC went into arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce claiming damages of US$124 million from the KVDA, which was later replaced by the Kenyan State. “The arbitration is in the initial phase and the presumed verdict will be in either the last trimester of 2022 or the first trimester of 2023”, the balance sheet reads. According to a note shared with journalists from the CMC press office back in 2019, between 28th December 2017 and 9th November 2018 the KVDA made two advance payments for Arror and Kimwarer totalling over US$66 million.

Kimwarer is located in Keiyo South constituency, 60 kilometres from Eldoret town on the Eldama Ravine Road. Unlike the Eldoret-Iten Road, the Eldama Ravine Road is in dire need of repair. The gaping potholes and washed away sections of the road meant the trip took twice as long as the journey from Eldoret to Kapsowar, which is 84 kilometres. The road takes you to HZ centre, a trading centre named after the late “Total Man” and powerful politician Nicholas Biwott’s construction company, HZ Construction and Engineering Company Limited. If the dam had been built, it would have swallowed up the unassuming little centre.

KVDA made two advance payments for Arror and Kimwarer totalling over US$66 million.

As opposed to Kapsaiya area, Kimwarer is less settled, so fewer people would have been displaced. Still, it is a semi-forested area, full of vegetation and lush greenery. It holds the community grazing area, where the local people leave their cattle to graze freely for weeks on end.

The initial descent into the valley is not as steep as when heading to the site of the Arror dam and it is possible to drive part of the way through the wet tropical-like vegetation, leaving the car to cut through the dense vegetation accentuated by tall indigenous trees. The two guides accompanying Kahura from HZ centre tell him they grew up grazing cattle in the area and know the geography of Kimwarer like the backs of their hands.

Once on the valley floor, gazing up towards HZ centre and towards the Eldama Ravine Road, the guides say that had the dam been built, the entire area would have been shorn off vegetation and anybody living there would have had to leave. “But as it is, the only evidence that anything had happened here is drilling,” says one of them. Only the gaping holes remain. Other large pits had been dug for soil testing though nothing was ever heard of the results. Many are now covered by vegetation or filled by the local people to avoid their cows falling into them.

Silas Kiplagat from Tulwobei village, the homesteads nearest to the site of the proposed dam, says the people are no longer interested in it, “because as you’ve seen for yourself, this was one huge scam. Our politicians all took us for a ride. It was all so absurd. The former MP, Jackson Kiptanui, Senator Murkomen and Governor Tolgos all came here to persuade us to support the project.”

KVDA officials, “who we were told would be in charge of the project,” had visited. “They held a meeting at the HZ centre social hall and enumerated the advantages of the dam when finished,” says Kiplagat. Other government officials whom Kiplagat says showed up were National Land Commission officials who also met the locals at the social hall and told them they were seeking their participation, insofar as the dam’s project was concerned.

“Then all visits stopped suddenly,” says Vincent Kiprop, also from Tulwobei village, “and the ensuing scandal startled the people. How is it that your own leaders can conspire to rip you off?” Kiprop asks. The residents are very angry with their leaders. “But hey, what are our options?” he shrugs.

“The former MP, Jackson Kiptanui, Senator Murkomen and Governor Tolgos all came here to persuade us to support the project.”

Kahura returns to Iten town where he meets with Kiptarus Kipkoros, a local journalist who is well acquainted with the dams’ saga. “The ‘dams project’ was meant to finance the 2022 election campaigns in the north Rift Valley region and especially in Elgeyo Marakwet,” says Kipkoros. He blames the media for the misinformation and confusion surrounding the two dams. “KVDA MD David Kimosop would hire a special helicopter to ferry journalists from Nairobi to the supposed dam sites. But you and I know their intention was not to establish whether the sites existed, report on the scandal or even investigate the story — not as long as the brown envelopes were aplenty.”

Kipkoros alleges that Kimosop would take the journalists on an aerial tour of Elgeyo Marakwet County, circle the areas around the two dams then return to Eldoret for a sumptuous meal before sending them back to Wilson Airport each with a brown envelope in hand. “Therefore, the politicians [read the MP, Senator and Governor] and the journalists helped conceal the true extent of the mega-dams scandal.” Journalists became part of the people who helped siphon the state’s money, says Kipkoros.

Before the scandal broke, weekends in Elgeyo Marakwet County were awash with choppers flying into the area. “Here in Iten they would drop at St Patrick Iten School grounds, at the market field, or anywhere where there is a landing field,” says Kipkoros. “Afterwards, the whizzing of the choppers in the air over the weekends suddenly ceased. It is very painful to watch elected leaders robbing their own people,” says the journalist. “The politicians used the money for self-aggrandisement,” he says, adding that

The journalist claims that the politicians and top KVDA officials used the cash to fund extravagant lifestyles, which astonished the people of the small, poor county of Elgeyo Marakwet. “The politicians inundated the county with choppers loaded with money every weekend, dishing it out to their supporters and at hurriedly set-up fundraisers.”

Before the scandal broke, weekends in Elgeyo Marakwet County were awash with choppers flying into the area.

Longrock Engineering Limited was named as one of the companies that allegedly received part of the money for the dams. The company was allegedly paid KSh6.2 million to supply furniture and provide transport services. “Now, Longrock is a corruption of the name Kaplongorok, a family name that hails from Kipsait in Kapsowar,” said Kipkoros. According to an investigation published by Africa Uncensored, there are five companies with “Longrock” in their names that were suppliers for the construction of the dams, all of whose directors or shareholders are directly linked to the KVDA and more specifically to board member Dinah Chelanga. “You can see for yourself the extent to which the money was distributed to friends, loyal supporters and relatives,” says Kipkoros.

The journalist says the politicians and the KVDA officials bought their girlfriends and wives brand new Toyota sedans and SUVS. “Some even acquired new wives on account of that money.”

However, even the journalist sees little prospect for real justice and accountability in the ongoing prosecutions over the scams. “The war on corruption will not be won by engaging in politics of deceit and subterfuge,” he says. What Uhuru is doing is not fighting corruption, but fighting [Deputy President William] Ruto and that’s why the people will just be angry for a while but quickly revert to type — that is ethnic politics.”

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Mr Kahura is a senior writer for The Elephant. Lorenzo Bagnoli is a board member of the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), a centre for investigative journalism based in Italy.

Politics

Moving to the Metropole: Migration as Revolution

In an act that should be seen as revolutionary, Africans are moving to the centre to benefit from the resources that continue to be extracted from their continent.

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Moving to the Metropole: Migration as Revolution
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When African students and other black persons escaping Ukraine at the start of the Ukraine-Russia conflict were being ejected from exiting transport (trains and busses) and denied entry into neighbouring Poland, many Africans were enraged with the shameless display of racism. One of these Africans was a middle-aged man from Congo—must have been a graduate student—only recently settled in Germany. Seated inside a café at the Berlin central train station with five of his German and British friends, he exploded: “One wonders how they built all these things? From where did you get all this money? Look where we are, this Hauptbahnof [main train station] must have consumed a fortune. The vehicles you make? No way!” His monologue lasted a while as his friends listened either in agreement or disbelief: “This is our money,” he went on.  “This is why you never stop these civil wars on the continent only to treat us like sub-humans. But we will not stop coming, whatever the cost!” he declared. His voice sounded austere, choked with emotion. None of his friends volunteered an immediate response. Then one said, this Ukraine situation is embarrassing.

While the angry tirade was sparked by the treatment of Africans trying to escape a war zone, clearly, this man had thought about all this stuff for some time. He must have been educated or observant enough to make the connections between the extraction back home in the DRC, the endless violent wars, the resources in Europe (as coming from his home), and the racist treatment of his kindred who otherwise deserve some respect for sustaining the beautiful lifestyles and infrastructures of the western world. Had he listened to Mallence Bart-Williams’ viral TEDx Talk? The story of this Congolese man, whom I will call Tshibumba Matulu (after the painter Tshibumba Matulu that Dutch anthropologist, Johannes Fabian writes about in Remembering the Present) is the story of “the metropole and the periphery” that dependency theorists Samir Amin, Immanuel Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank developed in the 1970s and 1980s. The last line of his vitriol is interesting enough in the sense that now, Africans are seeking to see the world as one whole and thus determined to move to the centre—follow up on and seek to enjoy their resources—at whatever cost. Indeed, despite the innumerable roadblocks (immigration laws, expensive and convoluted visa processes, slave traders in the Maghreb, drowning in the Mediterranean, rank racism, and Islamophobia in the western world), Africans are moving to the centre, to the metropole, en masse. They are determined to follow up on their resources.

This is the story of both the open and disguised violence of neoliberalism, where Africa is heavily mined on the cheap, exploited through unequal exchange, climate/conservation colonialism, with the proceeds coming from African human and natural resources being stolen through inexplicable claims of value addition. This point of view has been recently, succinctly and loudly expressed by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in her fight with French President Emmanuel Macron over immigration policies in Europe. Known for her anti-immigrant policies, Meloni’s (selfish) position is that if the French stopped stealing resources from 14 African countries through the clearly colonial and extortionist CFA, Africans would not be forced to make the dangerous journeys to Europe (where, by implication, they come to follow up on their resources, which are violently extracted leaving behind absolute poverty and suffering). In that viral clip doing the rounds across the globe, Meloni concludes that the solution to stop Africans from moving from their country to Europe is to leave them alone and have them receive the full benefit of their God-given resources:

So, the solution is not to take Africans and bring them to Europe, the solution is to free Africa from certain Europeans [especially France] who exploit it and allow these people to live off what they have.

While this message seemed directed at the French, the spread of (both violent and structural) capitalism across the African continent is real and threatening. With the collapse of the African economies about 30 years ago (via structural adjustment programmes), where foreign-owned companies returned under the neoliberal order and took over Africa’s major resources or the pillars upon which these economies stood—mineral resources (gold, oil, coffee, diamonds), banking, telecommunications, selling of agricultural products which used to be a function of cooperatives and direct government help—the continent has been left in a clear condition of morbidity. The bold choice, which I argue should be seen as revolutionary, is to move to the centre and demand the benefits of the resources that have been endlessly stolen from the continent, violently and through disguised extractivist structures.

***

Being a Congolese from Goma, Tshibumba Matulu must have witnessed the scramble for Congolese resources by the rich and mighty of the western world very up-close and personal—Dan Gertler International (DGI), Glencore Plc. and Alain Goetz, all of whom have a strong foothold in the country’s mining sector. These multinational companies own almost all the mining sites in the DRC, and have been implicated in the unending violence in the country, which is connected to the ways in which resources are mined. Take South Sudan as the other example where Glencore has a strong foothold in South Sudanese oil. In early November 2022, Glencore Plc. executives were found guilty of bribing the South Sudanese leadership—starting just four weeks after the country’s independence—as “they sought to profit from political turmoil . . . they inserted themselves into government-to-government deals that had been negotiated at preferential rates”.  The Africa Progress Panel estimated that in a period of two years (2010-2012), DRC lost US$1.3 billion in asset sales to DGI. A 2021 study showed that DRC risked losing US$3.71 billion to controversial Israeli businessman Dan Gertler. This is a lot of money—which ends up in Israel where Gertler is one of the richest men and has been controversially implicated in a thousand scandals in Congo. To understand the fact that modern extraction follows a colonial model, one has to appreciate the fact that colonialism’s extraction was and is always outsourced to corporations. King Leopold operated in his individual capacity as a businessman, using his loot to build estates, infrastructures and palaces in Belgium (and not on the African continent). That an independent businessman, Dan Gertler, would promise guns to a government and actually deliver on his promise exposes the ways in which governments in the west outsource businessmen to colonise Africa on their behalf.

These multinational companies own almost all the mining sites in the DRC, and have been implicated in the unending violence in the country.

Dependency theory so succinctly exposed the roots and execution of underdevelopment in Black Africa, which is, in brief, resources being extracted on the cheap from the periphery (Africa), to be moved and generate more value in the metropole. If these resources ever come back to the continent (Latin America or Africa), they return more expensively. In this periphery-metropole dichotomy, endless capitalist exploitation (which mostly thrives on violence) not only depletes resources and opportunities at the periphery, but also makes life unliveable and unbearable. It then enacts tougher controls to keep the peoples of the periphery at the periphery so that they do not move to the metropole and overwhelm its amenities. This is why African journeys to the metropole are not only dangerous, but are also defined by more drama that tends to generate an incredible amount of grim news broadcasts. Dependency theory does not explicitly follow up on the revolutionary journeys where the exploited—like Tshibumba Matulu—painstakingly seek the benefits of their resources in the metropole. This is perhaps because it pursued another route out of this colonial conundrum, which was to de-link the metropole from the periphery.

Capitalism’s violence, revolutionary journeys

Transiting through airports in Dubai or Doha, one will encounter East African languages, especially Kiswahili and Luganda. Manning a counter in twos or threes, staff tend to speak to each other in their languages. While duty stations may not be allocated depending on the mutual native linguistic intelligibility between workers, since all speak English, somehow, workers from the same Great Lakes linguistic community find themselves together. That the numbers of labour migrants moving to the Middle East have soared over the past years is not just testament to the availability of job opportunities in the Middle East, but also to the dire conditions in which they live in their countries—conditions made difficult by the capitalist neoliberal reforms of the 1980s, and in some cases by conflict (especially in Northern Uganda, Karamoja, Turkana areas, South Sudan and Somalia). Middle Eastern salaries are not the greatest attraction as they range between US$600 and US$900 depending on seniority (far much less for domestic work). But that the same amounts cannot be earned back home speaks more to the dire conditions at home.

Data from the Uganda Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development published in the Daily Monitor, indicates that for the last six years (2016-2022), an average of 24,086 Ugandans left the country annually in search of employment, especially in the Middle East. What makes conditions so hostile in the Great Lakes Region?  Besides Somalia and Central African Republic—where there is outright violence—why is the scale of movement of young people in particular so high in the Great Lakes region? It is the ravages of both internal capitalism (by the petty bourgeoisies) and foreign capital moving from South Africa northwards, but also coming from Europe and North America—and China exploiting the neoliberal environment. This is evident in cases of land grabbing, forced evictions, refugee crises caused by resource wars, especially in DRC and South Sudan, and the terrible business environment in the region.

Dependency theory does not explicitly follow up on the revolutionary journeys where the exploited painstakingly seek the benefits of their resources in the metropole.

Theoretically and practically, without the violence of the state and other related state actors, it is difficult for capitalism to reproduce itself.  States do not only set the conditions under which extraction occurs (such as banking regimes, neoliberal regimes), but they are also ready to commit violence on the exploited. In Uganda, cases of land grabbing by local capitalists have made land ownership and agriculture difficult. In other cases, collusion between the state and foreign capitalists to evict peasants off their lands is causing first, rural urban-migration, and then journeys abroad. Among the most memorable cases is that of the 2001 evictions in Mubende where the German coffee company Neumann Gruppe used outright violence (with the help of the state), including shooting, burning houses and animals, and maiming people to create way for a coffee plantation. Over 2,000 families remain destitute and are yet to find justice. Faced with mass unemployment, extortionist banking regimes with high interest rates that have stymied creativity and made business difficult across East Africa, many young people struggle to start thriving businesses.

Violent evictions have also taken place in Kenya and Tanzania to create way for capitalist expansion or capitalist ostentation (Franz Fanon warned that political elites would turn the continent into an entertainment centre for foreign capitalists). This is the story in Samburu where evictions have taken place to create way for American charities. It is the story of the green colonialism that led to the Ogiek and Maasai evictions from the Mau Forest in the name of conservation. Guillaume Blanc’s recently published book, The Invention of Green Colonialism, demonstrates how the rhetoric of conservation (by colonially founded organisations including UNESCO, WWF, IUCN) perpetuates a colonial model of conservation that privileges animals and plants over humans. While capitalists in Europe and North America—consuming endlessly—have destroyed nature, they have maintained a mythical, fictionalised Eden in Africa, insisting that peasants, who have developed ways of coexisting with nature, who eat very little meat, have neither cars, nor computers nor smartphones, are a danger to the environment. They are evicted from huge swathes of land that are then reserved for white people to hunt and gaze at wild animals.

Away from the forests and the plains, the poor are also being “cleansed” from the capital cities. The 2021 Mukuru Kwa Njega eviction in Nairobi that left 40,000 people homeless is etched in the memories of Kenyans. In what Mwaura Mwangi aptly termed “Demolition Colonialism”, thousands of poor Nairobians have had their houses demolished so that the rich can enjoy easy transit. This is not anti-development position, but rather a reading that seeks to recognise the rights of the poor, and make visible the history of slums in major cities across Africa.

Theoretically and practically, without the violence of the state and other related state actors, it is difficult for capitalism to reproduce itself.

Then come the wars in the DRC, Somalia, CAR, and South Sudan—a product of business dealings by multinationals including Glencore and CNOOC, among others— that have led to an increase in refugees numbers, now reaching 2.3 million people according to UNHCR. In his book Saviours and Survivors, Mahmood Mamdani implicates CNOOC and ExxonMobil in protecting oil wells using different rebel groups in the Sudan-South Sudan conflict. The end product of these clandestine oil dealings are the over 1.5 million refugees hosted in Uganda, making it the country with the largest number of refugees in the world. The influx of people escaping resource-related conflicts has overwhelmed resources in the Great Lakes region.  And while many of the refugees will stay in the region, many others are making the journey to the Middle East, to Europe and to North America.

With all this aggressive capitalist expansion manifesting in different forms, the African in the Great Lakes (and other places on the continent) is left with no choice but to make the journey to Europe and to North America. I want to read these journeys not just as migration, but as revolution. They might seem puny, unorganised and migrating out of desperate need, but Africans are moving to the centre to benefit from the resources that continue to be extracted from their continent. This is how the extractors perceive these journeys—not as migration, but as revolution—which explains why there are so many roadblocks along the way.

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The Campaign that Remembered Nothing and Forgot Nothing

Once a master of coalition building, Raila Odinga killed his own party and brand, handed over his backyard to William Ruto, threw in his lot with Uhuru Kenyatta, ended up being branded a “state project”, and lost.

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The Original sin

A seasoned Nairobi politician, Timothy Wanyonyi had cut a niche for himself in the Nairobi governor’s race that was filled with a dozen candidates who had up to that point not quite captured the imagination of Nairobians. Some candidates were facing questions over their academic qualifications while others were without a well-defined public profile. In that field Wanyonyi, an experienced Nairobi politician, stood out. On 19th April, the Westlands MP’s campaign team was canvasing for him in Kawangware. They had sent pictures and videos to news teams seeking coverage. But that evening their candidate would receive a phone call to attend a meeting at State House Nairobi that would put an end to his campaign. Before Tim made his way to State House, insiders around President Uhuru Kenyatta told reporters that Wanyonyi was out of the Nairobi governor’s race.

Wanyonyi’s rallying call “Si Mimi, ni Sisi”—a spin on US Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Not me. Us” 2020 presidential campaign slogan—distinguished him as a candidate who understood the anxieties of Nairobians. “They were looking for someone who would see the city as a home first, before seeing it as a business centre,” one of his political consultants told me. But the Azimio coalition to which Wanyonyi’s ODM party belonged was very broad, with several centres of power that didn’t take into account—or maybe didn’t care about— Nairobi’s political landscape. Wanyonyi’s candidacy was hastily sacrificed at the altar of the coalition’s politics. Former President Uhuru Kenyatta, the coalition’s chairman, had prevailed on Raila Odinga, its presidential candidate, to essentially leave Nairobi to Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party in exchange for ODM picking the presidential candidate.

That was the only consideration on the table.

However, it was a miscalculation by the coalition. Azimio failed to appreciate the complex matrix that is a presidential election in Kenya. While the top ticket affects the races downstream, it can be argued that the reverse is also true. It is ironic that Raila Odinga, a power broker and a master of coalition building who was running for presidency for the fifth time, was choosing to ignore these principles. His own ascension in politics had been based on building a machine—ODM—that he used carefully during every election cycle. Yet in this election he was killing his own party and brand. The Azimio La Umoja coalition party was built as a party of parties that would be the vehicle Raila would use to contest the presidency. However, the constituent parties were free to sponsor parliamentary candidates. It sounded like a good idea on paper but it created friction as the parties found themselves in competition everywhere. To keep Azimio from fracturing both itself and its votes, the idea of “zoning”—having weaker candidates step down for stronger ones, essentially carving out exclusive zones for parties—gained traction, and would itself lead to major fall-outs, even after it was adopted as official Azimio policy in June.

However, beyond the zoning controversy, Wanyonyi’s candidacy served as a marker for a key block of Odinga voters—the Luhya—assuring them of their place within the Azimio coalition. Luhya voters have been Odinga’s insurance policy during his last three presidential runs. With Nyanza and the four western Kenya counties of Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga and Busia in his back pocket, he would be free to pick up other regions. Odinga claimed 71 per cent of the Luhya bloc in 2017 but this time, western voters were feeling jittery about the new political arrangements.

There is also another consideration. The Luhya voting bloc in Nairobi is also significant, and Odinga had carried the capital in his previous three presidential runs. The Nairobi electoral map is largely organized around five big groups: the Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kamba, and Kisii. For the ODM party, having a combination of a Luo-Luhya voting bloc in Nairobi has enabled Odinga to take the city and to be a force to reckon with.

However, it appeared that all these factors were of no importance in 2022. So, Tim Wanyonyi was forced out of the race. He protested. Or attempted to. Western Kenya voters were furious, but who cared?

Miscalculation

The morning after the State House meeting, a group calling themselves Luhya professionals had strong words for both Odinga and Azimio.

“We refuse to be used as a ladder for other political expediencies whenever there is an election,” Philip Kisia, who was the chairman of this loose “professional group” said during a press conference that paraded the faces of political players from the Luhya community. The community had “irreducible minimum” and would not allow itself to “to be used again this time.” Other speakers at that press conference—including ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna—laid claim to what they called the place of the Luhya community in Nairobi. The political relationship between Luhyas and Luos has not been without tensions; in the aftermath of the opposition’s unravelling in the 90s, Michael Kijana Wamalwa and Raila Odinga fought for supremacy within the Ford Kenya party. Wamalwa believed the throne left by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was his for the taking. However, Odinga’s son, Raila, mounted a challenge for the control of the party, eventually leaving Ford Kenya to build his own party, the National Development Party (NDP). The Luhya-Luo relationship was broken. Luhya sentiment was that, having been faithful to Odinga’s father, it was time for Wamalwa to lead the opposition.

These old political wounds have flared up during every election cycle, and Raila Odinga has worked for decades to reassure the voting bloc and bury the hatchet. This time, however, he was different. He didn’t seem to care about those fragile egos. After the press conference, a strategist in Odinga’s camp wondered aloud, “Who will they [Luhyas] vote for?”

The next 21 days were to be pivotal for Kenya’s presidential election. Azimio moved on and introduced Polycarp Igathe as their candidate for Nairobi. A former deputy governor in Nairobi who had quit just months after taking office, Igathe is well known for his C-suite jobs and intimate links to the Kenyan political elite. His selection, though, played perfectly into the rival Kenya Kwanza coalition’s “hustlers vs dynasties” narrative which sought to frame the 2022 elections as a contest between the political families that have dominated Kenya’s politics and economy since independence. The sons of a former vice president and president respectively, Odinga and Uhuru were branded as dynasties while the then deputy president claimed for himself the title of “hustler”.

These old political wounds have flared up during every election cycle, and Raila Odinga has worked for decades to reassure the voting bloc and bury the hatchet.

But, William Ruto’s side also saw something else in that moment—an opportunity to get a chunk of the important Luhya vote. Ruto first entered into a coalition with Musalia Mudavadi, selling their alliance as a “partnership of equals”, and then followed that up with the offer of a Luhya gubernatorial candidate to Nairobians in the name of Senator Johnson Koskei Sakaja.

Meanwhile, Wanyonyi’s half-brother, the current Speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Wetangula, was a principle in Ruto’s camp. Up to this point, Wetangula had struggled to find a coherent message to sell Ruto’s candidacy to the Luhya nation. But, with his brother being shafted by Azimio, Wetangula saw a political opening; he quickly called a press conference and complained bitterly about the “unfair Odinga” whom he said the Luhya community would not support for “denying their son a ticket to run for the seat of the governor of Nairobi”. His press conference went almost unnoticed and it is not even clear if Azimio took notice of the political significance of Wetangula’s protestations.

Azimio had offered their opponents an inroad into western Kenya politics and Ruto wasted little time trying turn a key Odinga voting bloc. With Sakaja confirmed as the Kenya Kwanza candidate for the Nairobi governor’s race, Wetangula and Kenya Kwanza made Western Kenya a centrepiece of their path to presidency. Tim Wanyonyi was presented as a martyr. The Ford Kenya leader took to all the radio stations, taking calls or sending emissaries, to declare Odinga’s betrayal. In the days and weeks that followed, William Ruto would make a dozen more visits to Luhyaland than his rival, assuring the voters that there would be a central place reserved for them in his administration. In contrast, on a visit to western Kenya, Raila Odinga expressed anger that an opinion poll had shown him trailing Ruto in Bungoma. “He is at nearly 60 per cent and I am at 40 per cent. Shame on you people! Shame on you people! Shame on you!” he told the crowd. He would eventually lose Bungoma and Trans Nzoia to William Ruto.

To be sure, Odinga won western Kenya with 55 per cent of the vote, but William Ruto had 45 per cent, enough to light his path to the presidency. He would repeat the same feat in Nairobi and coast regions, traditionally Odinga strongholds where he would have expected to bag upwards of 60 per cent of the vote. Azimio modelling had put these regions in Raila’s column but Kenya Kwanza took advantage of the mistake-prone Odinga. And wherever Odinga blundered, Ruto mopped up. As Speaker, Wetangula is today the third most powerful man in in the country. Yet just four years ago, he was an Odinga ally who had been stripped off his duties as a minority leader in the Senate by Odinga’s ODM party. At the time he warned that the divorce “would be messy, it would be noisy, it would be unhelpful, it would not be easy, it would have casualties”. It was the first of many political blunders that Odinga would make.

Unforced errors

Looking back, Odinga’s 2022 run for the presidency had all the hallmarks of a campaign that didn’t know what it didn’t know; it was filled with assumptions, and sometimes made the wrong judgment calls. By handing over his backyard to Ruto and choosing to ally with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila ended up being branded a “state project”.

In 2005, Odinga had used the momentum generated by his successful campaign in a referendum against Mwai Kibaki’s attempt to foist on the country a bastardized version of the constitution negotiated in Bomas to launch early campaigns for his 2007 presidential run. However, this time, as the courts hamstrung his attempt to launch the BBI referendum, Ruto was already off to the races, having begun his presidential campaign three years early.

“He is at nearly 60 per cent and I am at 40 per cent. Shame on you people! Shame on you people! Shame on you!”

With the rejection of constitutional changes, which were found to be deeply unpopular among many Kenyans, Odinga was finally in a strange place, a politician now out of touch, defending an unpopular government, a stranger to his own political base. The failure of BBI as a political tool was really the consequence of Odinga’s and Kenyatta’s inability to understand the ever-changing Kenyan political landscape. Numerous times they just seemed to not know how to deal with the dynamism of William Ruto. He would shape-shift, change the national conversation, and nothing they threw at him seemed to stick, including, corruption allegations. For a politician who created the branding of opponents as his tool, Odinga had finally been branded and it stuck.

Bow out

In the final day of the campaigns, both camps chose Nairobi to make their final submissions. Azimio chose Kasarani stadium. It was, as expected, full of colour, with a Tanzanian celebrity musician, Diamond Platnumz, brought in to boot. Supporters were treated to rushed speeches by politicians who had somewhere else to be. Azimio concluded its final submission early and the speeches by Odinga and his running mate, Martha Karua, weren’t exactly a rallying call. It was as if they were happy to be put out of their pain as they quickly stepped off the stage and left the stadium. In contrast, Ruto’s final submission was filled with speeches of fury by politicians angered by “state capture” and the “failing economy”. Speaker after speaker roused the audience with their defiant messages. They ended the meeting an hour before the end of IEBC campaign deadline. A video soon appeared online of William Ruto sprinting across the Wilson airport runway to catch a chopper and make it to one final rally in central Kenya before the IEBC’s 6 p.m. campaign deadline.

Pictures of the deputy president on top of a car at dusk in markets in Kiambu were the last images of his campaign to be shared on social media. Ruto won because he wanted the presidency more than Odinga and was willing to work twice as hard as both Odinga and Kenyatta.

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Lagos From Its Margins: Everyday Experiences in a Migrant Haven

From its beginnings as a fishing village, Lagos has grown into a large metropolis that attracts migrants seeking opportunity or Internally Displaced Persons fleeing violence.

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Lagos, City of Migrants

From its origins as a fishing village in the 1600s, Lagos has urbanised stealthily into a vast metropolis, wielding extensive economic, political and cultural influence on Nigeria and beyond. Migration in search of opportunities has been the major factor responsible for the demographic and spatial growth of the city as Lagos has grown from 60,221 in 1872 to over 23 million people today. The expansion of the city also comes with tensions around indigene-settler dynamics, especially in accessing land, political influence and urban resources. There are also categories of migrants whose status determines if they can lay hold of the “urban advantage” that relocating to a large city offers.

A major impetus to the evolution of modern Lagos is the migration of diverse groups of people from Nigeria’s hinterland and beyond. By the 1800s, waves of migrants (freed slaves) from Brazil and Freetown had made their way to Lagos, while many from Nigeria’s hinterland including the Ekiti, Nupes, Egbas and Ijebus began to settle in ethnic enclaves across the city. In the 1900s, migrant enclaves were based on socio-economic and/or ethnicity status. Hausas (including returnees from the Burma war) settled in Obalende and Agege, while the Ijaw and Itsekiri settled in waterfront communities around Ajegunle and Ijora. International migrant communities include the Togolese, Beninoise and Ghanaian, as well as large communities of Lebanese and Indian migrants. The names and socio-cultural mix in most Lagos communities derive from these historical migrant trajectories.

Permanent temporalities

A study on coordinated migrations found that, as a destination city, Lagos grew 18.6 per cent between 2000 and 2012, with about 96 per cent of the migrants coming from within Nigeria. While migration to Lagos has traditionally been in search of economic opportunities, new classes of migrants have emerged over the last few decades. These are itinerant migrants and internally displaced persons.

Itinerant migrants are those from other areas of Nigeria and West Africa who travel to work in Lagos while keeping their families back home. Mobility cycles can be weekly, monthly or seasonal. Such migrants have no address in Lagos as they often sleep at their work premises or in mosques, saving all their earned income for remittance. They include construction artisans from Benin and Togo who come to Lagos only when they have jobs, farmers from Nigeria’s northern states who come to Lagos to work as casual labourers in between farming seasons (see box), as well as junior staff in government and corporate offices whose income is simply too small to cover the high cost of living in Lagos.

While people from Nigeria’s hinterland continue to arrive in the city in droves, the wave of West African in-migration has ebbed significantly. This is mostly because of the economic challenges Nigeria is currently facing that have crashed the Naira-to-CFA exchange rates. As a result, young men from Togo, Ghana and Benin are finding cities like Dakar and Banjul more attractive than Lagos.

Photo. Taibat Lawanson

Photo. Taibat Lawanson

Aliu* aka Mr Bushman, from Sokoto, Age 28

Aliu came to Lagos in 2009 on the back of a cattle truck. His first job was in the market carrying goods for market patrons. He slept in the neighbourhood mosque with other young boys. Over the years, he has done a number of odd jobs including construction work. In 2014, he started to work as a commercial motorcyclist (okada) and later got the opportunity to learn how to repair them. He calls himself an engineer and for the past four years has earned his income exclusively from riding and repairing okada. Even though he can afford to rent a room, he currently lives in a shared shack with seven other migrants.

He makes between N5000 and N8000 weekly and sends most of it to his family through a local transport operator who goes to Sokoto weekly. His wife and three children are in the village, but he would rather send them money than bring them to Lagos. According to him, “The life in Lagos is too hard for women”.

Since he came to Lagos thirteen years ago, Aliu has never spent more than four months away from Sokoto at a time. He stays in Sokoto during the rainy season to farm rice, maize and guinea corn, and has travelled back home to vote every time since he came to Lagos.

 

The second category of migrants are those who have been displaced from their homesteads in Northern Nigeria by conflict, either Boko Haram insurgency or invasions by Fulani herdsmen. The crises have resulted in the violent destruction of many communities, with hundreds of thousands killed and many more forced to flee. With many who initially settled in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) dissatisfied with camp conditions, the burden of protracted displacement is now spurring a new wave of IDP migration to urban areas. Even though empirical data on the exact number of displaced persons migrating out of camps to cities is difficult to ascertain, it is obvious that this category of migrants are negotiating their access to the city and its resources in circumstances quite different from those of other categories of migrants.

IDPs as the emerging migrant class in Lagos 

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, two of every three internally displaced persons globally are now living in cities. Evidence from Nigeria suggests that many IDPs are migrating to urban areas in search of relative safety and resettlement opportunities, with Lagos estimated to host the highest number of independent IDP migrants in the country. In moving to Lagos, IDPs are shaping the city in a number of ways including appropriating public spaces and accelerating the formation of new settlements.

There are three government-supported IDP camps in the city, with anecdotal evidence pointing to about eighteen informal IDP shack communities across the city’s peri-urban axis. This correlates with studies from other cities that highlight how this category of habitations (as initial shelter solutions for self-settled IDPs) accelerate the formation of new urban informal settlements and spatial agglomerations of poverty and vulnerability.

While people from Nigeria’s hinterland continue to arrive in the city in droves, the wave of West African in-migration has ebbed significantly.

IDPs in Lagos move around a lot. Adamu, who currently lives in Owode Mango—a shack community near the Lagos Free Trade zone—and has been a victim of forced eviction four times said, “As they [government or land owners] get ready to demolish this place and render us homeless again, we will move to another area and live there until they catch up with us.”

In the last ten years, there has been an increase in the number of homeless people on the streets of Lagos—either living under bridges, in public parks or incomplete buildings. Many of them are IDPs who are new migrants, and unable to access the support necessary to ease their entry into the city’s established slums or government IDP camps. Marcus, who came from Adamawa State in 2017 and has been living under the Obalende Bridge for five years, said, “I am still managing, living under the bridge. I won’t do this forever, my life will not end like this under a bridge. I hope to one day return to my home and continue my life”.

Blending in or not: Urban integration strategies 

Urban integration can be a real challenge for IDP migrants. Whereas voluntary migrants are often perceived to be legal entrants to the city and so can lay claim to urban resources, the same cannot be said about IDPs. Despite being citizens, and despite Nigeria being a federation, IDPs do not have the same rights as other citizens in many Nigerian cities and constantly face stigmatisation and harassment, which reinforces their penchant for enclaving.

The lack of appropriate documentation and skillsets also denies migrants full entry into the socio-economic system. For example, Rebekah said: “I had my WAEC [Senior Secondary school leaving certificate] results and when Boko Haram burnt our village, our family lost everything including my certificates. But how can I continue my education when I have not been able to get it? I have to do handwork [informal labour] now”. IDP children make up a significant proportion of out-of-school children in Lagos as many are unable to get registered in school simply because of a lack of address.

Most IDPs survive by deploying social capital—especially ethnic and religious ties. IDP ethnic groupings are quite organized; most belong to an ethnic-affiliated group and consider this as particularly beneficial to their resettlement and sense of identity in Lagos. Adamu from Chibok said, “When I come to Lagos in 2017, I come straight to Eleko. My brother [kinsman] help me with house, and he buy food for my family. As I no get work, he teach me okada work wey he dey do.”

The crises have resulted in the violent destruction of many communities, with hundreds of thousands killed and many more forced to flee.

Interestingly, migration to the city can also be good for women as many who were hitherto unemployed due to cultural barriers are now able to work. Mary who fled Benue with her family due to farmer-herder clashes explained, “When we were at home [in Benue], I was assisting my husband with farming, but here in Lagos, I have my own small shop where I sell food. Now I have my own money and my own work.”

Need for targeted interventions for vulnerable Lagosians

“Survival of the fittest” is an everyday maxim in the city of Lagos. For migrants, this is especially true as they are not entitled to any form of structured support from the government. Self-settlement is therefore daunting, especially in light of systemic limiting factors.

Migrants are attracted to big cities based on perceived economic opportunities, and with limited integration, their survival strategies are inevitably changing the spatial configurations of Lagos. While the city government is actively promoting urban renewal, IDP enclaving is creating new slums. Therefore, addressing the contextualised needs of urban migrant groups is a sine qua non for inclusive and sustainable urban development.

“I am still managing, living under the bridge. I won’t do this forever, my life will not end like this under a bridge. I hope to one day return to my home and continue my life”.

There is an established protocol for supporting international refugees. However, the same cannot be said for IDPs who are Nigerian citizens. They do not enjoy structured support outside of camps, and we have seen that camps are not an effective long-term solution to displacement. There is a high rate of IDP mobility to cities like Lagos, which establishes the fact that cities are an integral part of the future of humanitarian crisis. Their current survival strategies are not necessarily harnessing the urban advantage, especially due to lack of official recognition and documentation. It is therefore imperative that humanitarian frameworks take into account the role of cities and also the peculiarities of IDP migrations to them.

Lagos remains a choice destination city and there is therefore need to pay more attention to understanding the patterns, processes and implications of migration into the city. The paucity of migration-related empirical data no doubt inhibits effective planning for economic and social development. Availability of disaggregated migration data will assist the state to develop targeted interventions for the various categories of vulnerable Lagosians.  Furthermore, targeted support for migrant groups must leverage existing social networks, especially the organised ethnic and religious groups that migrants lean on for entry into the city and for urban integration.

*All names used in this article are pseudonyms

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