In the lead op-ed in The New York Times Jan. 9, Kennedy Odede’12 described the despair and desperation of growing up in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums. He writes movingly of his childhood friends succumbing to lives of crime and terror as they sought a way out of crushing poverty.
“These are more than singular tragedies; they contribute to the psyche of being poor,” Kennedy writes. “This psyche inculcates hopelessness, dispels a belief in the possibility of tomorrow’s being better than today, compels a resignation to the fact that you may suffer the same tragic fate as your peers, and fuels anger because there is no escape and you did not choose this — you simply drew life’s short straw. This, perhaps, is terrorism’s fertile ground. Because if you grew up as I did, self-protection requires coming to terms with violence and terror. Violence becomes a vehicle of survival. ”
Terrorism is bred in places like Kibera, he argues, calling for “new systems of urban promise” in Nairobi and elsewhere.
Odede is the founder of Shining Hope for Communities, and was a 2013 New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute.