613284_130226_KanukiSigns4.jpg
613284_130226_KanukiSigns4.jpg

Slumdog Politics

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613284_130226_KanukiSigns4.jpg
613284_130226_KanukiSigns4.jpg

"The whole country became like here," says one man, of the violence that engulfed Kenya following the 2007 presidential election. "Like Mathare."

Mathare is one of Nairobi's biggest slums, a place divided between ethnic groups, plagued by alcoholism and unemployment. It's also, writes James Verini in his latest piece for FP, a sort of microcosm of Kenyan politics. Votes are bought; ballot boxes are stuffed; those who seek to do otherwise are beaten or intimidated into silence. Here, photographer Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin captures the scene in the run-up to election day on March 4.

Above, campaign posters plaster tin sheeting that line the walls of shops and homes throughout Mathare.

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Candidate Mwai Joel Kariuki (center), who is running to represent the Mabatini ward in Mathare, campaigns at a barbershop. Unable to compete in the game of handouts and bribes played by other more moneyed candidates, Kariuki sank his life savings into his campaign, hoping that his popularity and reputation as a hard-working entrepreneur will win him the seat. 

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613286_130226_0_Billboard2.jpg

A view overlooking Mathare. The charred plot of empty land to the right shows where Wahagio Beach Club -- a prominent pub owned by one of Mwai Joel Kariuki's main financial backers -- stood until it was burned down this December, killing the owner in the process.

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613287_130226_Womensigns2.jpg

One of Kariuki's old campaign banners with The National Alliance (TNA) hangs on the left along a street in Mabatini. After Kariuki failed to land TNA's nomination he jumped on board with a new party: Saba Saba-Asili. Posters for his new campaign hang on the right.

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Gas is released from fermenting barrels of chang'aa -- a potent, corn-based moonshine -- at the Carribean plant in Mathare. Carribean is the largest producer of the lucrative chang'aa in this slum (and possibly Nairobi) and is owned by John Njenga, a frontrunner in Mathare's race for county representative.

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613289_130226_Moonshine12.jpg


Busaa, a moonshine made from fermented barley, is a local favorite. Its production and sale constitute a significant pillar in Mathare's economy, while its consumption fuels Mathare's rampant crime.

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613290_130226_Shadows2.jpg

A young child stands alongside a drainage ditch in Mathare. The slum lacks any formal sewage system.

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613291_130226_0_Store2.jpg

Francine, a local shop owner, pours cooking oil into a bag for a customer.

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613292_130226_butcherwatch2.jpg

A child looks on as a butcher chops off a hunk of meat for a customer.

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613293_130226_Fish2.jpg

A customer points at a piece of fried fish head.

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613294_130226_Cafe22.jpg

A few people gather in a small restaurant, known locally as a "hotel," in Mathare.

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613295_130226_BridgeMonkey2.jpg

Using the metal supports of a bridge as "monkey bars," a schoolboy swings across the stream that cuts through Mathare.

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613296_130226_0_Formalstreet2.jpg

Alongside Mathare's informally built tin-roofed huts and shacks, there is also a "formal" section of Mathare consisting of congested apartment blocks and markets.

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613297_130226_MomBABAY2.jpg

A mother and her baby outside their tin-roofed apartment in Mathare.

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613298_130226_0_Pampers12.jpg

One of Mathare's formal buildings.

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613299_130226_Graduate2.jpg

Jack, a local restaurant owner, at his home in Mathare.

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613300_130226_AfricaMap2.jpg

A map of Africa on the wall of a local primary school in Mathare.

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613301_130226_1_FeedBaby2.jpg

A mother feeds her toddler as the two rest in the shade of a wall plastered with campaign posters.

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