When I was growing up the Somali community lived mostly in Eastleigh. Then Eastleigh was a mix-mash of different communities living together and it was a hub for trade and commerce.
Now Eastleigh is still a huge hub of trade and commerce but the predominant community is the Somali. The other communities have been slowly but surely being edged out.
The war in Somalia has led to a proliferation of Somalis into Kenya. The fact that there are Kenyan Somalis and the rampant corruption in the Ministry of Immigration has meant that a Somali from Mogadishu just needs to hitchhike to Eastleigh and once there pass himself off as a Kenyan Somali complete with birth certificate, national identity card and passport. Thus the number of Somalis in Kenya has shot up rapidly.
The Somali Diaspora send millions of shillings back home and the rise and rise of piracy have meant that the Somalis have became quite financial well off.
This combination of huge human capital base and huge financial base has resulted in various happenings in Nairobi.
First, the housing market has being totally overrun by Somalis. They are willing to pay three times the market rate and thus housing in Nairobi is currently priced beyond the capability ordinary Kenyans.
Secondly, who are naturally quite enterprising have due to the financial muscle gotten into commerce on a grander scale than they were ten years ago. Mega malls have been constructed in Eastleigh and it’s rumoured that you can buy anything and I mean anything there. The result of this is that Kenyan small-scale traders are gradually getting elbowed out.
Thirdly, the Somalis have silently gotten into the Central Business District of Nairobi. Standard Street which is home to Lonrho House and Steers Restaurant has been wholly taken over by Somali traders. MPesa shops, electrical appliance shops, a Somali restaurant and a Somali coffee shop. There is also the interesting phenomenon of buying pubs and converting them to non-alcoholic restaurants. Ibiza pub is now City Star Restaurant while Seasons pub is now Rayan Restaurant.
Fourthly, since Eastleigh has proved too small for the huge number of Somalis, they have migrated to South C which is a middle class estate in Nairobi. This would be quite natural and okay but upon further investigation it is not. There are reports of Somali only apartments in South C i.e. you only get to rent if you are Somali. Remember that other communities were edged out of Eastleigh? With their strong financial base will the same happen in South C? If that happens then which estate will be taken over next?
I have no issues with Somalis but these happenings make me wondered about the following:
1. Is it possible for Somalis to co-exist and integrate with other communities?
2. How do we differentiate between Somalia Somalis and Kenyan Somalis?
3. Is there a silent bid to establish influence in Nairobi and then in Kenya by Somalis?
Food for thought..
GOD BLESS KENYA!