Saturday, September 14, 2013

Presidential security, statutory contempt and road carnage.

There's a simple explanation for why Kenyans will continue to be slaughtered and maimed on our Chinese-sponsored-and-built "super" highways. It has nothing to do with the Big Idea of a "culture of impunity." It is not linked to which tribe's turn it is to "eat." It is not because only of the incompetence of drivers and law-enforcers alike. It is because of all these and none of these. But at the core of the reasons for the continuing carnage lies a fundamental truth: Kenyans have a deep and abiding contempt for the law and for the rule of law. From the President on down, our respect for the law is measured by how many statutes we bend, manipulate, ignore, side-step, circumvent, suborn, undermine and outright break.

Before this blogger is accused of showing contempt for the institution of the Presidency by linking it to the national malaise of contempt for the law on the road, let us examine a few uncomfortable facts. Is there a Kenyan alive who can identify the piece of legislation that permits the presidential motorcade to flout the Highway Code? Can anyone prove that, by law, the President must at all times travel in a traffic bubble in order to keep his ass from getting fragged on the highway by some asshole with an axe to grind? Where does it state that the Presidential escort must travel in packs, like hyenas, and bully law-abiding road-users from the path of the presidential cavalcade? In other words, what is the law on presidential motorcades, or even presidential security for that matter?

If the President, mini-presidents, speakers, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and sundry movers-and-shakers cannot be bothered to drive within the ambit of the Highway Code - the Traffic Act for those anally retentive, lie yours truly - why should the new owner of a shitty grey import or the high-as-a-kite "pilot" of a PSV bother with even a rudimentary knowledge of that vital set of rules? In Kenya today, and over the past fifteen years, we have elected leaders, not rulers. If we were living in a time when our President ruled us, then it would matter not that he, and his security minders, thought of the Highway Code as a minor inconvenience. But we have leaders today. This is an important distinction. Leaders show us the way; they guide us to our hearts desires, whether they are economic liberty or academic excellence. Therefore, the fact that our leaders choose to publicly and notoriously demonstrate a mighty contempt for the Highway Code is crucial to understanding why Kenyan drivers, generally, will never respect the -road, road users or traffic rules.

We take many things for granted. One of them is that because of the place of the Presidency in the governance of the nation, and the power that the Presidency wields, that it is fit and proper to take reasonable and extraordinary measures to protect the person occupying the office. No one has seen fit to question the statutory justification for the offences committed in the name of presidential security. It is why none has seen fit to question the mass land grab that has taken place in public places by, mainly, public institutions in the name of security.

Take Harambee Avenue, for example. It used to be one could walk from the Treasury to the National Assembly without encountering a single fence, save around the Office of the President. Now even Vigilance House has barricaded itself behind a high fence and proceeded to grab the pavement in from of it to keep out God knows who. Pedestrians must walk on the road (an offence) because the armed policeman in front of Vigilance House might (now) shoot you for walking in front of one of the most militarised address on Harambee Avenue.

Our leaders demonstrate contempt for the law on a daily basis. They encourage us to do the same. When we do so, we suffer tragic consequences. In addition to the leading causes of road traffic accidents, and the deaths and injury they engender, such as drink-driving, speeding, and driving unroadworthy vehicles, the biggest contributor is the false belief amongst road users that rules are meant to be broken. After all that is what our presidential security details demonstrates every time they swat us hoi polloi out of the way in the name of security.

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