Dandora dumpsite. Photo Credit: Jeremy Mutiso

A tale of two mountains

The hot burning sun in January, does not seem as hot as usual and especially in Dandora, but the chill on the slopes of Davos are undisputed, climate change? Perhaps, but a story for another day. What is evident is the stark contrast of the two cities and two mountains that seemingly have nothing to do with one another. However, the fallacy of complacency does not grip the citizens of Kenya and the residents of Dandora. While in Davos the World Economic Forum sets the global agenda over champagne, the residents of Dandora are reclaiming their space in global discourse amidst a garbage mountain where many of the residents are etching out a livelihood and articulating what is of most concern to them in their own terms.

Oxfam which is part of the Inequality Alliance is keen to ensure that communities are driving the agenda. Women’s groups, youth groups and civil society organisations are at the forefront of organising football matches, peaceful rallies, information shops which culminate in a music concert dubbed Usawa Festival on 27th Jan. 2018. The events are in sharp contrast to Davos given that the activities being organised speak to the growing inequality that often manifests in poor access to essential services such as health, education and water. Dandora which is a dump site in Nairobi is enveloped by an informal settlement area that has mushroomed as a result of the residents turning the garbage to gold.

The contrast of the two mountains speaks to the inequality that is prevalent across the globe and a very realisation of the need to address it. Oxfam in Kenya believes that the key to reducing inequality lies in a multifaceted approach that is inherent on addressing fiscal injustice. In the report Taxing for a More Equal Kenya, Oxfam in Kenya proposes a five point action plan that hinges on creating a shared future for a fractured society rooted in: reforms to the personal taxation system ensuring that the rich pay their fair share of taxes, reducing negative tax competition among countries, putting gender at the heart of policy making, investing in free quality services for all and strengthening the social contract between citizen and state.

According to Oxfam’s Report An economy for the 99 percent, inequality has meant that the hard work put into the Dandora dumpsite is not rewarded at the same rate as capital. As billionaires’ incomes grow by 13% per annum, wages have only grown by 2% annually- less than a sixth of the rate of growth of billionaires. The relevance of this statistic in Kenya is the confluence of politics, wealth and power. The consequence of which is the low prioritization of health and education where budgetary allocations fall far below the need. This means that the quality of essential services is grossly undermined leading to a two-tier system distinguished by economic capability and therefore social class.

However, Dandorites have actively reclaimed their voice, space and dignity by refusing to be the recipients of decisions of the 1 percent, but instead articulating their issues in a most artistic, concerted and focused manner. Dandora is now the symbol of Kenya’s accentuation of divergence from the opulence of Davos. Both critically important narratives of the same story. One from the bottom and another from the top.