Every Wednesday we have our Man Around Nairobi segment where we interview the men who live, work and play in Nairobi. Our Man Around Nairobi today is Mugambi Laibuta. Mugambi Laibuta is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, a Law Lecturer, a Trained Mediator, Legislative and Policy Drafter plus a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist. He holds a Master of Laws Degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science being a Chevening Scholar. He has a great interest in the internet and the law and often represents bloggers and the Bloggers Association of Kenya when freedom of expression rights are being violated by the state. He believes in responsible and open internet space. Apart from that, he is involved in constitutional making in various countries. He has been part of Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia and Chile constitutional review processes plus advises the public and private sectors on legislative affairs. Mugambi is a staunch Manchester United and Thika United fan plus a Twitter addict follow him @olez.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Yes, I grew up in Nairobi although I was born in Meru. I grew up in Eastleigh which at the time was an awesome, clean and vibrant borough of the city. The grown-up folk would come party in Eastleigh as there were so many discos in the area. We even had fruit trees growing all over so we had fruit feasts when the fruit trees were in season. Growing up in Eastlands was quite the experience, we had different sheng dialects for each ‘mtaa’. You could easily tell someone who was not from Eastleigh.
We played football. MYSA had great football tournaments so we would play in those once in a while. But we also had other childhood games like ‘shake’, ’rounders’, ‘hide and seek’ and bike races. Activities were outdoor and so much fun but my parents ensured that a lot of our time was spent studying and doing the recreational reading. It was books first, second and third then other fun activities followed.
All in all, it was so much fun growing up there though we got ‘teargassed’ in the 90’s on Saba Saba day each year. The unfortunate thing about growing up in Eastlands is that you know a few people who died too young due to crime or drugs. I can hardly recognise Eastleigh at the moment, it has changed so much.
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
Nairobi is the capital of Africa. The richness of the Nairobi culture is great. There is actually some rush about being in or around Nairobi. There is so much to do in Nairobi culturally, if you love art, food, music, nature, fashion, theatre or just partying there is a wide variety to choose from notwithstanding which corner of the city you are in.
Nairobi is also highly multi-cultural and diverse which adds to the richness of the culture. Every time I am not around for a while, I always look forward to coming back.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
The traffic of course and the county leadership that has been a great letdown. I wish Nairobi was better planned. I grew up in Eastleigh which was let to grow without good planning and there are so many other estates that are falling apart. So there are issues with drainage, sanitation and good road access. I wish we had had more public green spaces, most have been grabbed, unfortunately. Lastly, we need good public transport, light passenger trains would do us well.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
For professionals like myself, Nairobi is the place to be. There are so many opportunities in Nairobi, be it in earning a living, professional development or networking. As a lawyer, Nairobi is the ideal place for me.
The thing about this city is that if you do your work professionally, you will have work to do but a lot also depends on networking. Without good professional contacts, working in the city can be a challenge. I believe that anyone who does well professionally in Nairobi can survive anywhere in the world.
5. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting?
One, I would tell them that they must have the real nyama choma experience with ugali or mukimo and kachumbari at an authentic local Nairobi joint and of course down it with a Whitecap. Nowhere in the world could one have such an experience. In fact, it must be on their bucket list.
Two, I would propose a drive around the city, North to South, East to West to have a feel of real Nairobi geography as they visit historical fixtures. This includes a drive to Naivasha or Magadi,
I would tell them that Nairobi is the only city with a national park, close to the Rift Valley and the second highest mountain in Africa. Third, Nairobi is a very friendly city, who would not want to come to chill out with us Nairobians….
If you would like to interact with Mugambi you can interact with him on Twitter @olez.