I would like to introduce to you Kaka. You should consider yourself lucky if you ever get to meet him. I figure the majority of the people reading this won’t ever meet him, so I decided to write about Kaka, my colleague and friend.
Kaka, who’s real name is Isaac but is known through out his community as Kaka (Swahili for brother), is a community leader, entrepreneur and an athlete. He has lived his whole life in the Mathare slums, home to what people say is now almost one million. He has endured more than any of us could ever imagine and in the environment he lives in you can be almost certain there will be a lot more to go through.
Mathare is not your usual community. Police show up in droves to beat women and children. Thieves are dealt with by the community, usually stoned to death, and the machete is something every grown man knows how to use. Five years ago Mathare was run by a tribal sect of gangsters (Mungiki) who made it difficult to breath with out paying for it. The police came in and rounded up the Mungiki, to a near by forest and executed hundreds of them.
Kaka is the one guy who has been working day and night in the recycling centre we built. Through this I’ve learned a lot about Kaka’s life and has made me learn an unbelievable amount about my own.
Both of Kaka’s best friends were murdered by the police for petty crimes a couple years ago. He tells me that the pain stays the same and never goes away. He has even seen police execute people as they lie face down in the dirt. I can see there is a raging inferno inside of him from all thats happened. The part that I love the most about him is that he takes the fire and rage and puts it into his ambition to make life better for the people of his community. I can honestly say that I’m nowhere near as strong as he is since my life has been like a duvet blanket compared to his. If half the stuff that’s happened to him ever happened to me I would snap and go awol. That’s not to say Kaka doesn’t ever let people know he is not on any terms one to be messed with. He has God inside of him and believes people are good so everyone should be loved and respected, that’s until they start robbing in his neighborhood.
Kaka has achieved a lot in his short life, he’s been a part of a street theater group to raise awareness about HIV, he started doing garbage collection in his community, and now he runs a recycling centre and a community hall, employs street kids, mobilizes criminals to put down their guns and puts them to work, the list goes on.
Kaka is what I consider to be a true leader. He tells me “Umoja ni nguvu ya mskini“ Togetherness is the weapon of the poor. The rest of the community who loves him wants him to run for area councillor, but he hates politicians and politics. It’s the unfortunate story for most of the world, the real leaders who believe they can get more accomplished on the ground than with the corrupt government.