Mike Adler, Inside Toronto, January 8, 2008
A Scarborough MP who was in Kenya’s largest slum one year ago says in the wake of post-election riots, residents of Nairobi’s sprawling Kibera area need Canadian help
Scarborough-Guildwood MP John McKay toured the slum, where “law and order is a vague concept” and clean water is often kilometres away, at the invitation of a charity backed by Canadian aid.
The Jamii Bora Trust made small loans to thousands in the slums, allowing residents there to start “micro” business such as making dresses or reselling vegetables from the market. Canada also contributed textbooks to a severely overcrowded Kibera school, McKay said this week.
But many businesses started by trust loans have been destroyed in violence that has left at least 500 Kenyans dead since Dec. 30, when President Mwai Kibaki declared victory in a close election opponents say was stolen.
It’s important for Canada to refinance the loans and get Kibera’s schools up and running, said McKay, who added his trip showed him government corruption in Kenya “is extremely difficult to deal with.”
In distributing aid, Canada seeks to be “all things to everybody” and as a consequence “we spread ourselves so thin that we can’t have any particular impact on any particular country,” argued the veteran Liberal MP.
The federal government should direct foreign aid to “poverty alleviation,” instead of, for example, training police in Haiti or judges in China, McKay said. “If they feel these other activities are important, take it out of something other than aid money.”
McKay’s private member’s bill C-293, which would limit Canada’s annual $4-billion in overseas aid to dealing with poverty, passed the House of Commons in March and is now before the Senate.