Tribute to Elijah Agevi, RIP
From Irũngũ Houghton on behalf of the Kilimani Project Foundation
and Society for International Development
I met Elijah first in 1995. I was then a member of the NGO Council Executive Committee, he led the Shelter Forum, one of the Council networks. I last met him two weeks before he passed away. He was finding a way to stop public land grabs and wanted to hear our progress on protecting public primary and secondary schools.
Elijah’s strength was his ability to move between sectors, across spaces and bridge different communities. His life informs a vision of all Kenyans as planners, citizens actively dreaming, designing and building liveable towns for all.
His vision was far ahead of us but a consistent theme in most first class cities including those seeking ‘fair share’ housing plan (Miami Valley, Ohio ) or to provide dedicated land exclusively for open green public squares (Philadelphia). Here and elsewhere, community-devised and community-funded initiatives are part of long-term sustainability plans. Planning is not done to people but with people. Elijah believed in a future in which we all would be urban planners. In this understanding, I too am a planner.
Elijah was also an activist. He had a passion for the right to shelter and beautiful and safe public spaces. In an Africa, where ½ of Africa’s urban population live in peoples settlements, urban inequality is the 2nd highest globally with young men and women are 3 times more likely to be unemployed, we all need to be like Elijah.
This city, country and continent that I live in is therefore, is too important to leave to planners. I will honor Elijah’s vision.
I was happy to hear UN Habitat will honor him posthumously and the County of Nairobi Government will name a street or a public space in his honor.
Go well Elijah. The people’s settlements, NGO and Government offices that you know so well shall remember you fondly.
For more on Elijah Agevi, see https://goo.gl/r573iE