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Research Group: 'Governing the slums: Lessons from Kenya and Rwanda'

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Babak Mohammadzadeh.

Over the past two decades, Kenya and Rwanda have experienced some of the highest rates of urban population growth in the world, a trend that has been accompanied by the rapid proliferation of slums. While Kenya’s dysfunctional urbanism typifies that of the region, Rwanda has emerged as an internationally revered ‘model case’ for aspirant states in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on findings from 70 semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in Kigali and Nairobi, this paper argues that the urban governance framework—itself constrained by colonial legacy effects—explains the sharply diverging trajectories in recent slum performance of the two countries. In Kenya, institutional arrangements established during colonial times cultivated post-colonial patron-client networks and rent-seeking opportunities in the slums, creating perverse incentives for governing elites to maintain the status quo. In Rwanda, however, the genocide against the Tutsi acted as a critical juncture severing the institutional trajectory and—in its stead—new institutions formed, including a progressive urban governance portfolio instrumental to the containment of slums. In highlighting the mediating role of state governance in the containment of slums, this paper challenges the prevailing wisdom that had erstwhile based explanations of slum proliferation on a narrowly conceived economistic-cum-demographic determinism.

The University of Cambridge Centre of Governance and Human Rights Research Group is a forum for graduate students and early-career researchers from any department and disciplinary background researching issues of governance and human rights in the global, regional, and national contexts. This is an excellent opportunity to receive cross-disciplinary feedback, to produce a published CGHR Working Paper with editorial help, and to meet and network with student and academic researchers.

The CGHR Research Group meets every first Monday of the month from 1 to 2pm in the Alison Richard Building, Department of Politics and International Studies (7 West Road). Participants may bring their lunch, and tea and coffee will be provided after the seminar.

The aim is to facilitate an exchange between younger and more established researchers, offering a forum for the development of new and innovative ideas, constructive criticism and stimulating debate. Each month, one paper will be presented, and detailed feedback will be provided by a discussant (an established researcher, to be arranged by the Convenor) before opening up for a wider exchange. Presenters will be encouraged to incorporate feedback into a revised document, for possible publication as a CGHR Working Paper.

Call for Papers

We are looking to confirm presenters for coming terms. To present a paper or for more information on the research group, please contact the convenor, Babak Mohammadzadeh,

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