Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We should be proud.

If a typical Nairobian hears cries for help, he will not be surprised, shocked or concerned. He hears cries for help all the time; he has become inured to them. The recently-suffering residents of Bungoma and Busia are learning to become inured to screams of fear just as the residents of Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru, and Mombasa have done. In no time at all, the residents of Bungoma and Busia will learn to shut out the cries of help and go about their business, just as Nairobians have learnt to do.

This is not because Nnairobians are callous or heartless. On the contrary, but they are acutely aware that screams for help may be the noose around their necks they cannot escape. If there is one outcome of the forty-year KANU interregnum it is that Kenyans have absolutely no faith in civil institutions such as the police, the police prosecutors, or the courts. It is why when they get an opportunity to mete out "mob justice," even the most chilled out, sedate and "civilised" ones among us will join in the "Ua! Ua!" chanting that will accompany an extra-legal execution.

To appreciate this, one needs to travel to a Western capital like Ottawa or Canberra. When civilians shout for help, and because it is frequently a very rare event, other civilians will stop and, where they are able, assist. The contrast with Nairobi is stark; because we know that even if we intervene the police will not come, we see no reason to enter situations that may end up with us on the receiving end of the unwanted attentions of thieves, armed robbers, or rapists. It is how the phenomenon of a "serial killer" amongst us is gaining prominence.

The serial killer is not an aberration when one considers how blasé we've become regarding rapists of all shades: child molesters (whom we euphemistically call defilers), granny rapists, gang rapists, et cetera, walk unchallenged among us and we do not bat an eyelid. Recently, in the United Kingdom, the Crown Prosecution Service (their version of the Office of DPP) came under political and public scrutiny because of how one of their lawyers had described a child victim of sexual assault. In Kenya, police prosecutors, magistrates and parents of the victim usually work in concert to sweep the whole matter under the judicial carpet, with child welfare officers cheerleading the whole thing to its ignominious end. How else do you explain how parents could marry off their under-age child with all the agents of the State pretending that nothing wrong has taken place?

So while we pretend, as Nairobians are wont to do, that Nairobi stacks up favourably with Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as London, Paris and New York, let us admit to ourselves that that Nairobi is not the Nairobi we all know and mightily loathe. That is the Nairobi where phrases like "gated community" and "leafy suburbs" are apposite, not cruel, sardonic insults hurled at the 60% who know they are living on borrowed time. The Nairobi that goes to the Westgate Mall, the Village Market, the Junction, attends the Circle or Blankets n Wine, purchases its rides from DT Dobie or Bavaria Motors, and educates its scions at Turi or the Banda School, is not the Nairobi that rides the rusting and careworn RVR bogeys from hell, wishes mutindwa had not been paved over for the reckless convenience of Umoinner Sacco, and still understands the crucial economic value of Blue Band ya Kadogo. It is this Nairobi that will not bat an eyelid as a Nairobian is being reminded of his pecuniary responsibilities to the muggers and petty thieves of the Green City in the Sun. This Nairobi is too busy not dying to actually live a full life.

Our beloved Governor has accompanied our equally beloved President to China with his begging bowl out. it's not his fault he found the City Treasury empty; but it must sit heavy on our souls that we are the begging capital of Nairobi. Before the one-precenters of Nairobi deem us the equal of London, it is time they pondered the irony that their city leads the nation in begging, both on the streets and in the government. It is a rare distinction. We should be proud.

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