Kenya Is a Sickening Mess of a country
It’s a hot busy Friday afternoon in Nairobi I am with my girlfriend in the busy streets of Ngara combing through the array of mitumba (secondhand) clothes on display, the prices are low almost everything sells for about 200 shillings ($2)from denim jeans to skirts to sweatpants to man trousers even shoes. It’s chaotic with every seller yelling and sometimes pulling to get your attention. The traders are on a busy road, with commuter buses buzzing around carelessly a dance of death as pedestrians try staying clear of being run over.
Going about our business we hear a thud and some mild commotion. I rush to check out the commotion and it was not a pleasant scene. A gentleman in his late twenties to early thirties was on his back motionless on the tarmac road, he was hit while trying to cross the road. I go over for a closer look, he seemed still alive but mortally hurt. I presumed he was about to be rushed to an emergency center but to my surprise, all the onlookers were possibly there for the shock value. I approach the near motorcycle taxis ‘boda-bodas’ and ask them why they are not rushing the man to an emergency center they mutter something about how it’s not their responsibility. I talked to the bus driver, he seemed confused and clueless on what to do next. He tells me he is waiting for the cops, all this while the victim’s life could easily be slipping away. I insist the victim could be dying, and they have to rush him for emergency care, that’s when he reaches out to the boda-boda riders for help. I observe in pity it ‘s only me and one other person pleading for an emergency response to the man’s life. In the end, I had to leave, I am hoping his life was saved.
I leave the scene as I crunch the numbers on how many pedestrians die each year of such avoidable road incidents, which are quite a norm, hence the numb response of the onlookers at the scene. More than 1,500 pedestrians die on our roads yearly add to the deaths occurred by other motorists the number clocks to staggering 3,000 plus, the main reason; careless driving and bad use of the roads. Compare with numbers of people dying of other more ‘serious’ cases such as terrorism (from 1998 to 2016 less than 1000 people have died from terrorism related attacks in that period we’ve probably lost more than 50,000 people)the body count of road incidents are staggering. Yet we are not seeing any real serious initiatives that stop our roads from being death traps. I have personally been a witness of at least two cases of persons dying on our road and other incidences of cars running into each other. On that Friday, I witnessed three incidences. I am scared of my life every time I travel.
Many Kenyans like I, are frequent commuters and witness the horrifying display of lawless culture displayed by matatu drivers in Nairobi who speed and crosscut each other in second by the second near deadly misses. Other drivers speed as if it a rally race, others will be seen using their phones and others drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The commuters are so used to this deadly show, they never realize the amount of danger they are in.
We have the traffic police who apparently should be in charge of seizing this madness but report after report shows the Kenya Traffic Police is seriously infested with greedy, unprofessional, corrupt, goons. The police take bribes in broad daylight caring less about their jobs and the lives lost I see it daily, it’s appalling. The government is crippled to do anything. The paradox here is the police are the law enforcing arm of government.
Moving on, recently as I was having a chat with some family members we started talking about business opportunities in the country. What stood out from the conversation was how most deals done in Kenya are, opaque and corrupt. Worse if you are doing business with the County Governments the culture of kickbacks is so rampant it is a big lie for any well meaning Kenyan to believe you can work through the front door of a government office. Follow the ‘set processes and procedures’ and walk out with a deal. The repercussions on such a system are; malignant economic stagnation, a crazy weighted average wealth gap, poor administration efficiency and a sickening disservice to the same people who elected these government officials. Kenyans have become numb to corruption scandals too, but I praise the pundits, media, activists and the few government officials who actually do their jobs to curb this abhorrent norm of rampant economic crimes.
Moving on, I wonder when I’ll take out my phone on the streets of Nairobi and pick a phone call without having to clamp my phone on my palm because the next pickpocket or rather phone snatching thug is prowling. Where are the street police who should be on alert every corner of the city? I only see private guards manning the private businesses of the upper class. There should be street police everywhere to arrest thugs and prevent crime, again I have witnessed cases of Kenyans being mistreated and robbed in broad daylight. Yes, we installed street cameras but do we have facial recognition equipment. I do not want to start on the numbers of extrajudicial beatings and killings that get reported time and again. I keep online news feed reports on police recruitments and graduation ceremonies but where do they go next I wonder, hunting in the bush?
Moving on, I take another walk through the so-called ‘slums’ or informal settlements like the Mukuru wa Njenga, Mukuru wa Ruben and Viwandani around Embakasi Industrial Area Nairobi and what I see marks the lowest levels of human survival. The place is so barren of any real evidence of a pro-active government.
Moving on, I wonder when I’ll take out my phone on the streets of Nairobi and pick a phone call without having to clamp my phone on my palm because the next pickpocket or rather phone snatching thug is prowling. Where are the street police who should be on alert every corner of the city, I only see private guards manning the private businesses of the upper class? There should be street police everywhere to arrest thugs and prevent crime, again I have witnessed cases of Kenyans being mistreated and robbed in broad daylight. Yes, we installed street cameras but do we have the face recognition equipment?. I do not want to start on the numbers of extrajudicial beatings and killings that get reported time and again. I always see on my news feed reports on police recruitments and graduation ceremonies but where do they go next I wonder, hunting in the bush?
Moving on, I take another walk through the so-called ‘slums’ or informal settlements like the Mukuru wa Njenga, Mukuru wa Ruben and Viwandani around Embakasi industrial area Nairobi and what I see marks the lowest levels of human survival. The place is so barren of any real evidence of a pro-active government.
The people pretty much govern themselves, basic social services like clean water and sanitation are a luxury. It’s a settlement in the so-called largest capital in East Africa but you cannot see passable roads, garbage, and open sewage are part of the topography, again no signs of police or any form of proactive administration efforts. The sanitation is so bad you might get a septic shock if not used to it, yet more than 400,000 people live there who pay taxes to a non-existent government. A recent report sponsored by Canada, not even the County Government of Nairobi unfolded that people living in these areas are extorted by cartels to the tune of up to 7 billion shillings (70 million dollars) a year because of insufficient government social systems. To quote the confederation of NGOs OXFAM
‘Slums in Nairobi are well-known, named and measured. They can be seen from a plane, circumnavigated on foot and even appear on a Google Earth map. Yet they slip off the radar as far as the government is concerned. In fact, Nairobi’s slums form a near-perfect case study of what can happen when there is an almost complete lack of basic services and investment’
It’s puzzling how right now in Kenya, we have the opening of one of the largest most luxurious malls in Africa at the same time having a humanitarian crisis with widespread famine. Are there two Kenyas’ where one has systems and prosperity with another where it’s nothing but abject poverty, desolation, and non-government. Why is it that Mpesa works so swiftly and efficiently handling trillions of shillings while the government can’t install a drainage system or collect garbage for its people. Why do we have buildings toppling over, again and again, taking lives because of a poor or rather absent urban planning office while we have world class skyscrapers being installed?
Personally, I think like the Kenyans who go spectate at an accident instead of mobilising emergency and save a life. We are a bunch of aloof spectators to a country being run outlandishly like matatus. There are no systems that actually work it’s everybody for himself, we bribe our way out of anything, with a race to just loot the public coffers, move to a posh house in Kilimani hire a private guard and bury your head in the sand, as we tweet complaining. We are not agents of change but the problem. I don’t think Kenya has hope, not in the near future, not with the type of leadership we have, not with tribal ethnicity.
Kenyans need to wake up and I think that will happen gradually, Kenyans in this day are more civic educated, college educated and so on we are aware of our rights and the responsibilities of government that’s a positive. I am betting in the far future, as people get more enlightened on the social responsibility maybe, we can have responsible government officials who will actually bring positive change not more perks and bonuses for themselves, my hope is in the future generation. As of now, things are bleak and we can ignore the desolation for a day or two before the next crisis hits or before we are affected personally, after then do we realise our ‘matatu’ culture is driving things berserk. Immediate solutions for those hoping to witness a better government is to look into moving geographically from this on if you can.