Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya, has some of the most vibrant grassroots and civil society groups in the country. Like most major urban areas the city faces very serious problems especially when it comes to the provision of housing and other basic services. A majority of the residents live in informal settlements including Muoroto, Tudor, Kibarani, Bangladesh and Owino Uhuru among others. When Hakijamii started working in Mombasa in 2007 it became clear that most of the grassroots groups were not working together.
Fortunately most of them had strong desire to find a common platform on which they could galvanize their energies. The arrival of Father Gabriel Dolan in the village of Bangladesh provided a decisive impetus to the process. Within a short period he created a grassroots group called Haki Yetu (Our Rights). Working closely with Haki Yetu and the other grassroots groups in Mombasa, a strong grassroots network composed of twenty community based organizations, has been formed and has achieved success in a number of cases. These include: resisting attempts to forcibly evict residents of Bangladesh by Kenya Railways in 2009, mobilizing against environmental degradation by a battery-making company in Changamwe.
One the most visible successes by the group came on 10th December, 2009 when they organized a human rights day celebration calling for the implementation of the National Land Policy. It was attended by many including professor Yash Pal Ghai a distinguished international and constitutional scholar and former chairperson of the Constitutional of Kenya Review Commission.
As matters stand now, the future looks very promising for sustained people-led advocacy in the coastal town of Kenya.
Author: Odindo Opiata