I used to think hawkers were the pestilence that years of City Council-ing had inflicted on my quiet and serene Nairobbery life, that they were a punishment for, (a) not being old enough to vote for sensible councillors, and (b) for not being the sharpest genius in the room who'd get a scholarship to MIT or Harvard. (For some reason the idea of a Rhodes Scholarship did not seem terribly appealing.)
Then I went to Wakulima Market. Hawkers are not the problem; they are the proof that Uncle Kidero and his county executive are not just not better than the reviled City Council, they might actually be worse. That place is filthy. It is muddy, smelly and an absolute horror show of filth. How can so many Big Brains in the biggest city in East and Central Africa perform so dismally for so long without a revolt taking place? The answer lies somewhere on the Grey Scale, but for the purists among those who follow this blog, surely the answer is either in the broken politics of Kenya or in the incomprehensible lack of civic-mindedness of the people.
It had never occurred to me where a great deal of my veggies came from. Until I was exiled to the unforgiving and harsh world that was Machakos School, I believed that my veggies were shipped in straight from my beloved Makueni, God's Own County. Machakos School introduced me to economics, and i came to learn about demand and supply, supply chains and market forces. If you were in Nairobi, chances are your tomatoes, cabbages, sukuma wiki, spinach, dhania, brinjals, potatoes, carrots...the green stuff that are supposed to stave off cancer and death come from Wakulima Market. And it is absolutely filthy, almost a decade after the last Minister for Local Government oversaw the collection and disposal of sixty tonnes of rodent excrement.
The Wakulima Market is in the same troubled zone that has the Kenya Planter's Co-operative Union building, the Kenya Farmers' Association warehouse and Kahawa house. What all these buildings have in common are filthy lanes; I was shocked to discover that the lanes are tarmacked and not the murrum that I had come to associate with the area. The reason they look like goat tracks found only in those bits of Kiambu Jomo Kenyatta had a beef with is because the rules that are supposed to govern what can and cannot be done in our fair city have been given short shrift for decades now.
Nairobi is a pig sty. Uncle Kidero inherited a very filthy pig sty. But the men and women he appointed to help him sweep out the Augean Stables are almost certainly the reason why the problem is almost intractable; they are politicians first, and city administrators second and the former does not require a mind only an unlimited appetite for public funds without much accountability. If that were the problem, we could still hope for a turnaround.
But Uncle Kidero faces a hostile national government, and one that seems to have been captured by unsavory, self-entitled whingers of the most horrendous kind. And I do not mean the self-important, self-entitled servants of the people warming two-hundred thousand shilling chairs. I mean the flunkies, factotums and minions that flutter and swirl like butterflies around the self-important, self-entitled servants of the people. These are the sticks-in-the-mud who have done everything in their not inconsiderable power to stifle and stymie the efforts of the Government of Nairobi City County. They lie and cheat in the service of liars and cheats with the sole aim of ensuring that the Green City in the Sun remains an eyesore for the whole world to see. They are the true enemies of development for if Nairobi never develops, the rest of the country will be that much slower.