Monday, October 09, 2023

Go away.

A short video doing the rounds on social media shows former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka and former Mombasa senator Omar Hasan exchanging words during one of the meetings of the National Dialogue Committee. Mr. Musyoka appears to be trying to shut down whatever point Mr. Hasan is making, all the while the Governor of Embu is trying, without success, to get the two of them to put a sock in it.

Kenya's constitutional discourse reflects the ego-driven war of words between Mr. Musyoka and Mr. Hasan. Little of the top-down constitutional prescriptions by the political elites of our communities has anything to do with what the peoples of Kenya want. Mr. Musyoka and Mr. Hasan (and the rest of the National Dialogue Committee) have learnt nothing from the fiasco that was the Building Bridges Initiative.

What I found interesting in the video is the dismissive and contemptuous tone the two men have for each other. It s clear Mr. Musyoka thinks that Mr. Hasan is childish and ungrateful, while Mr. Hasan thinks Mr. Musyoka is a delusional over-the-political-hill old man. They were thinking only of the things that affected them. The ostensible reason for the National Dialogue Committee - constitutional amendments for the benefit of Kenyans - was given short shrift at the altar of their egos. It didn't occur to them that neither of them came out smelling of roses. Instead, Kenyans were reminded once more that Kenya's politicians are driven only by selfish self interest, and not the public good.

It has been decades since Kenya even had the semblance of an intelligent political class. Though it has always been venal and corrupt, it didn't allow its venality and corruption to prevent it from doing some good, every now and then. But the past fifteen years, as the political class has been divorced from the people it is supposed to represent, have witnessed the slow and inexorable decline in anything beneficial to the people and the elevation of the interests of the cabal sitting in Government at the expense of sensible public policy.

Today, only the Kenyans at the top can say with genuine pride that their lives have improved. Instead, personal income taxes have gone up. Regressive indirect taxes have gone up. Household incomes have crashed. The quality of public services is in the toilet. Life is hard and is made harder by political burdens Kenyans neither want nor need. Life would be immeasurably improved if Messrs. Musyoka, Hasan and their ilk should go somewhere far away and stayed there until the end of time. But that is not a realistic option, is it?

Thursday, October 05, 2023

The love language of shameful silence

One of the meanings of "careful" is "making sure of avoiding potential danger, mishap, or harm; cautious", while "careless" means "not giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors". One of the hallmarks of a careful person (or institution) is pride in their name. Careful people will not hide their identity (unless they are careful crooks). In the public service, this who take time t think through their decisions, consult widely when taking decisions, and speak honestly when taking responsibility for their actions, rarely see the need to hide their identities. Their intention is almost always to avoid danger, harm or mishaps.

Careful is not the image that comes to mind when you think of the Kenya Roads Board or its roads authorities, the Kenya National Highways authority, Kenya Urban Roads Authority or Kenya Rural Roads Authority. It is no longer the image that comes to mind when one thinks of the National Transport and Safety Authority or the Traffic Department of the Kenya Police Service. Most road users in Kenya think of these institutions, and their managers and boards of directors, as careless. The death, injury and destruction of property caused by their carelessness is all the proof one needs.

Many factors have contributed to the death, injury and damage caused on our roads. The corruption of the Police and NTSA when it comes to the operation of roadworthy or unroadworthy motor vehicles on our roads comes to mind. The incredibly poor driving skills of the majority of motorists, including drivers of public service vehicles and other kinds of commercial vehicles, cannot be ignored either. The fatalistic risk-taking by other road users can also not be gainsaid.

But of all the factors that contribute to the current dire situation, one of the major ones is that the roads we have are badly designed. Perhaps the design on paper applied the latest techniques adopted in other jurisdictions that have lower rates of death, injury or destruction. But designs on paper don't save lives. IN Kenya, praise is always given for perfect documentary designs. There's that apocryphal anecdote of Kenyan policy documents being successfully implemented by Asian Tigers while the very same policies gather dust in ministry archives. The same may be true when it comes to our roads.

Maybe the implementation of those old designs is sacrificed at the altar of greed, corner-cutting and outright theft of funds and construction material. But the fact that when you try, for example, to find out who the members of the KENHA board are, you end up with a blank page tells you everything you need to know about the nature of the institution. It is not proud of its work. It is not proud of its oversight bodies. It is not proud of its managers. And it is deeply, deeply ashamed of the quality of its work. Why wouldn't they hide their identities?

Very few are nowadays unaware that Kenyan roads are not fit for purpose. Not even for the motorists for whom the roads are ostensibly reserved for. The shiny new elevated expressway is very good at connecting the various exits along its 27 km stretch, but every exit leads to a traffic jam. Thika Super Highway is a funnel that brings clogged traffic into the CBD in the morning and sends it back to Githurai in the evening. Langata Road has a beautiful interchange at T-Mall but only so that it can deliver yo to the Nyayo HighriseEstate/Nyayo Stadium traffic jam in all haste. What all these somewhat impressive feats of civil engineering lack is any sort of common sense. Little or no accommodation is made for Nairobi's legion of pedestrians, nduthists, mkokoteni pullers, and brave-beyond-belief cyclists. Our focus on cars and car drivers has not solved the "traffic problem" and has, instead, made the roads quite unsafe.

So I revisit the shame of the Kenya Roads Board, its roads authorities, the Traffic Department, NTSA and the men and women who make decisions that cause untold harm and damage. They hide their faces because they now that they cannot afford to admit that they are the charlatans who have led to so much death and injury. They hide their shame because in Kenya, shameful silence is their love language.

As by law established

The members of my profession, the ones with a pompous sense of importance, tend to use phrases whose value has diminished greatly since the ...