DENTS THAT AIL PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN NAIROBI By Ken Ogembo


Four months since Railways bus terminus became my drop off here in the CBD. One noticeable aspect was the dents on public transport vehicles at the stage, which can only be associated to either inadequate transport policy or failure in the implementation. Almost 85% of the public vehicles using the stage have dents and it’s a miracle that they are able to move. Most of the vehicles are in deplorable condition.

Over time, on my daily commute, I have observed the presence of at least two police officers at the stage, including Sundays, but this does not change the chaos unfolding in front of your eyes, obstruction and competition to leave the stage has allowed me to understand the dents that appear on these vehicles. And every day the policemen stand there, they are to maintain the law but one wonders whether for them maintaining law and order is not part of their job description.

Compounding the problem further was an incident where a driver just knocked the other in front of a police officer and nothing happened. Neither the drivers of the two vehicles nor the police talked about it as the police officer walked away smiling. From the look on his face, it was a normal thing. As the vehicles leave the station while approaching the roundabout just before they join Haile Selassie Avenue, a person normally boards, and in many instances as the vehicle moves, they’re given money and immediately alight before the vehicle moves too far. It concerned me who the person could have been and why the conductors gave money without any difficulty hence the reason I had to inquire. I would ask the driver every time I got the opportunity to seat next to the drivers who the people were. Their response were too proverbial as they were either called the agents of city owners or the stage owners.

Finally, through persistence with the drivers, I came to understand that they were agents of either the city council or the police for protection. One of the drivers added that there was no way a vehicle could operate without being loyal to the agents but refused to indulge more on the same.
Another peculiar norm at the stage is the removable side-mirrors. If you are keen, one will notice that some of the vehicles would remove their mirrors in the struggle to leave the stage and return them when it is clear. Additionally, hiking of bus fare at will is often evident. There is a culture of people asking how much they would be charged which for me was strange until I had to learn the hard way. In three occasions, I had to pay up to Ksh 100 for Kibra that is normally Ksh 50 during peak hours.

Boarding the moving vehicles is the art at the stage, it is learned, and an accepted offence that police are never bothered about. The public are forced to board the vehicles while they are moving without consideration of the risks involved. What if one misses the step and falls? What about people living with disabilities?

Thus my reflection on several attempts by the county government to bring order in the city. For instance, the recent order by the county to block public vehicles from accessing the CBD. What was the basis and were the stakeholders involved in coming up with the decision as provided for in the constitution?

My question led me to ask a few people who have been in the city longer than me if they had ever been involved in such decisions and they were equally surprised that I didn’t understand how the county made decisions. My next stop was the County website to look for either data or statistics or expert advice on how they arrived at the decision and nothing was available. A violation of Article 35 of the constitution that requires government to provide information to the public

Seeming to be a welcomed problem but how could the county administrators correct a major problem like traffic with agents collecting money from the same matatu for protection while the same police own matatus as was recently alluded to by President Uhuru Kenyatta?

And from nowhere, a new rule of car free days starting February 1st 2019 was announced with majority of stakeholders asking how they came about the decision and still there was no consultation or if there was then it was selective public consultation. Siasa Place conducted a twitter poll just a day after the announcement, asking if people in Nairobi would support the decision and 66% said no. The decision may succeed if the county takes note of what they had ignored in the past or the decision may as well form part of a statistic of failed decisions.

The county requires good will in their approach of public engagement where the public are truly involved. They further have to invest in working with experts in the sector otherwise they will make the same mistake repeatedly, with no result for any of the decisions they proposed.

Written by Ken Ogembo
Program Manager at Siasa Place

Honestly even if the women representatives position is scrapped off, what difference will it make? By Kaudo Philip

With the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Kenyans foresaw a new nation. We did hope that it was just a matter of time for Kenya to progress from a developing to a developed nation. A new Kenya was indeed dawning. Assumingly, the constitution seemed comprehensive and one that would solve the pertinent problems that Kenya has faced since independence; injustices and impunity. As optimistic Kenyans did put it, “we have adopted an American constitution; soon we will be like the Americans”. Devolution became one of the principal motivators for the majority vote for the constitution. It would promote local participation, empowerment of the locals, improve transparency and accountability, promote equitable development through resource allocation and bring services closer to the people. Seven and so years after and this has prompted the political class that did fight tirelessly for the New Constitution to opt for another referendum factually to again find an avenue to satisfy their self, endless and broad interests.

The new Constitution has debatably brought more bad than good to Kenyans. Is it because the political class lack the personality to drive the development agenda as contained in the comprehensive constitution? Or is it that the constitution was theoretically rigid and practically hollow? Why then does corruption still thrive, ethnicism commonplace, tribalism is still our culture and generally impunity and injustice are still part and parcel of the people of Kenya?

Despite the constitution stipulating the need for a devolved system, the satisfaction of the people’s right to development still remains questionable. In the words of Amatyr Sen, “development is multidimensional and concerns human progress that is improved education, protection of people’s right, security, health amongst others.” The Pumwani hospital saga, the frequent medical strikes and other industrial actions are just but a few of the justifications of the malfunctionality of the health sector which legally became a devolved unit. Health sectors continue to remain understaffed, medical equipment remains insufficient and poor service delivery the trend. Honestly, the issue needs to be revisited but how? The legal framework that guides the medical sector remains inefficient as evidenced in the frequent medical saga as noted in the auditor general’s report 2017/2018 financial year that did expose massive corruption within the ministry. In deed our bureaucrats do not care to care.

The constitution did create more political positions. This has hampered national development. With just a population of 50M, the Kenyan elective or political employees constitute around a fourth of the national population. Ironically, India which boasts of a population of over 1.3 billion just like Kenya constitutes a bicameral legislature. On a comparative basis, the rajha Sabha and the lok sabha constitute 245 and 545 members respectively. This translates to a ratio of 1 politician to over 50 million Indians. A similar trend is equally exhibited in USA.In Kenya, on the contrary, one politician represent tens of thousands. Real development does not actually come through over representation. Development comes through the existence of few, accountable, like minded individuals who have subordinated their self-interests for public gain. The existence of the many political seats has caused overlapping of functions and a debt burden with the nation indebted by over half of our national budget. This is actually an existential threat to our economy.

The devolved system did devolve corruption. “This is the time for us to eat and that’s the reason for devolution, if you don’t grab now, then when?” These are some of the silent sentiments the political class do say. Actually, since the implementation of the new constitution corruption has intensified and the war against it has been that of a toothless dog. The auditor general reports on several counties and state departments amongst them Homabay, Kisumu, Nakuru, Machakos, Nairobi have been able to expose the diversion of public resources for self-satisfaction. Evidently, as a result of corrupt deals, they drive posh cars, live in palaces, and eat in expensive hotels as their electorate continue to languish in abject poverty.

As a solution, Kenya has to rethink its constitution. Despite the argument of over representation the nation’s greatest threat to national development remains failure of institutions to fully implement the doctrines of chapter six, Leadership and Integrity. The chapter clearly stipulates the expected code of conduct of each state officer, restrictions on activities of state officers amongst other tenets. The executive has on several occasions acted in full contravention to this pivotal tenet. At times, the bureaucrats has appointed and nominated individuals who do not satisfy the constitution to hold public offices. Ironically, the legislature has approved these individuals. This has perpetrated corruption and abuse of office. Appointments based on political patronage, nepotism and tribalism should be made a thing of the past. Honestly even if the women representatives position is scrapped off, the counties reduced and the ward representatives equally reduced as many opine while corruption still persists, our country will continue to remain in the same state of nature it is in now. The debts we owe to developed worlds and financial institutions are not significantly caused by the wage bill but rather corrupt deals by our elected leaders.

Offices countering corruption should be strengthened. This should encompass increased financial assistance to enhance their investigative capacity. As contained in the Chinese constitution, the anti-corruption legal provisions should be amended to make them more strict including but not limited to even death sentence.

Electorates should reject in totality leaders who instead of pursuing common interests pursue self-interests. A good politician is one that respects the will of the people and considers the interests of his people paramount and others secondary. Politicians exist to facilitate the smooth distribution of the limited resources.

Even though Kenya needs a constitutional review, Kenyans have to be very careful with its provision otherwise we may be again deceived by a half-baked constitution. First and foremost, Kenyans must be inquisitive to find out whose interest is in the constitution. Is it for the people of Kenya or again for the political class? Is there need to create the post of prime minister and his deputies as well yet the constitution focuses on reducing the wage bill. The fact that a parliamentary system works smoothly in Britain does not necessarily mean that it shall be a success in Kenya owing to the differences in the ecological environment. Devolution for example is a success in USA and totally a failure in Kenya. Kenya needs a constitution that reflects the needs of her population and not a copy and paste strategy from developed nations. We have to get concerned about why we have been fed up with the constitution just less than 10 years after its implementation and why the same drafters and politicians who convinced Kenyans on how the constitution was best are now oppossers of their own ideas. What seemed to have changed?

The writer, KAUDO PHILIP, is a former student of Miyuga, Lifeshine Sondu and Oriwo Boys High School and currently a fourth year at Maseno University Pursuing Political science.
Written by Kaudo Philip
Political Science student at Maseno University
E: philipmisori@gmail.com