Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fire Them All.

While this author absolutely loaths the brutal way in which the British went about in their civilising mission in its East African colonies, the civic infrastructure they left behind when they finally gave up on their mission is a thing to behold. When they were in charge, and they had successfully managed to isolate the natives in low-end estates in the Eastern parts of the Capital, they managed to create a public emergency response system that had it been maintained, would be the envy of the rest of Africa bar, possibly, South Africa. The fire that engulfed parts of the JKIA complex this Thursday are a sad reminder that the natives in charge of disaster management in Nairobi, both in the national government and Evan's Kidero's county government, are about as capable as three-year olds with AK-47s. In other words, they are most definitely part of the problem.

Since the fatal collapse of the Sunbeam Supermarket building along Tom Mboya street in the 1990s, Nairobi has held its breath every time there has been a high profile disaster. When al Qaeda decided to test its death delivery systems in 1998 in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, it took the capable assistance of disaster response units from as far afield as Israel to point out the ever mounting short-comings of the Kenya Army, the Nairobi Fire Service, the Kenya Red Cross and the scores of privateers who descended on the scene of the US embassy bombing. Today, Uhuru Kenyatta and Evans Kidero have egg on their faces because their governments failed to appreciate the moribund state of the country's premier entryway. That it took more than thirty minutes for fire crews to arrive on the scene, and then took them a further six hours to put out the flames, is an indictment of their disaster-preparedness strategies and managers.

Mr Kidero is on the record that the response units for the airport are under the jurisdiction of the Kenya Airports Authority and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, two parastatals that have their fair share of shady goings-on in their boardrooms. But he cannot escape blame: some of the fire trucks despatched to JKIA belonged to his fire service. That it took them thirty minutes to fight through Nairobi traffic is evidence enough, if more is required, that he has completely let the ball on the traffic management of the Capital, fall from his hands. Again. Instead, just like the remaining hyenas in the counties, he is more interested in his chase cars and their sirens while he rushes to this meeting or the other, tweeting about it all the way.

Uhuru Kenyatta has a more fundamental decision to make. The Boards of both the KAA and KCAA are renown for their boardroom clashes when it comes to the question of public procurement. The CEOs of these key agencies are always chosen based on how well they are capable of "managing" the multi-billion shillings contracts that come around every few years. It is whispered in the corridors of power that the right man in the job is worth a few billion shillings in kick-backs. Obviously, while these CEOs have their eyes firmly fixed on their interests and those of the shadowy unknown, their management of the disaster-preparedness of Kenya's airports receives scant attention. Events like the JKIA fire, and the frequent black-outs at Mombasa's Moi International Airport, as well as the frequent near-disasters at Eldoret Airport are multiplying frighteningly while these men twiddle their thumbs. Mr Kenyatta has the power to send the Boards of these parastatals packing. That he is yet to do so leaves us with one conclusion: he doesn't really know what to do.

Three days after the fire, Kenya is looking to foreign powers to assist in determining who was responsible for the mistakes that led to the disaster. We all know who are responsible. The President knows it; the Governor knows it; the Cabinet Secretaries of Internal Affairs and Transport know it. All that remains is for the President to fire those that need to be fired and start with a clean slate. Kenyans will not mourn the removal of these criminally negligent gentlemen. We do not need the FBI or Scotland Yard to point out that our airport managers have been asleep on the job for dog's years. Fire them all.

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