Friday, May 11, 2018

A dance 22 years in the making

It used to be that no matter your station in life, rules and regulations guided most of your public acts, if not your private ones, because it was always assumed that at the very least, paying lip service to the tenets of the rule of law was a good thing. Scofflaws, even among the rich and powerful, did their best to hide their antisocial habits. It wasn't because they were ashamed but because it would simply make them a visible target for when things went awry in their affairs. As a result of this tacit compact among the people, it was easy for us all and our betters to keep up appearances - the fiction that we were in this together, that hard work always paid, that evildoers would be punished.

The lesson of the past twenty-five years, if not thirty, is that we no longer hew to this fiction. Brazen defiance of rules and regulations doesn't attract the opprobrium of right-thinking members of society because, and I can't believe I am saying this, if you can find a right-thinking member of society, you must have turned over every single rock in Kenya.

Nothing demonstrates how much we have erased the norms that made life tolerable than the predictable cases of Kenyans being killed by the dozen every time the floodgates of the heavens open and catastrophes follow, whether it is collapsing building, rivers that burst their banks or dams that collapse. The most recent, of course, is the ongoing tragedy in Nakuru County where Patel Dam on the Solai farm, failed and released millions of tonnes of water that have so far killed 40 Kenyans and displaced hundreds more.
The eponymous Mr Patel is said to have been a farmer in the area for at least two decades, and has built 8 other dams, one of which was the subject of Government "investigations", with an official from the Water Resources Management Authority saying that not one of Mr Patel's dams was licensed and that he had rebuffed all demands that he regularise his developments. Mr Patel is the latest in a long line of "private investors" who defied safety measures imposed on them by our laws and, more or less, did as they pleased, going back to the ill-fated Sunbeam Supermarket that collapsed and killed 35 Kenyans in 1996. Mr Patel has gotten away with his actions because in Kenya, led by the rich and powerful, it is no longer enough to defy the law: you are a hero to many when you do it brazenly and with great impunity.

It has been reduced to a fine dance, the events that are about to unfold over the Solai tragedy. Numerous Government officers will issue statements, some of remorse and some of condemnation. The media will attempt to parse what everyone is saying, without success, instead making the survivors and the families of the dead feel even worse. The Director of Public Prosecutions will direct he National Police to investigate. In a few days, certainly not more than two weeks, we will have forgotten and moved on to the next tragedy. We have perfected this dance for twenty-two years.

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