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Kenyan leaders’ fingers in their ears.

Leaders should remove those fingers from their ears

Publication Date: 3/24/2008

THOUSANDS OF COMMUTERS from the Eastlands gather at the Muthurwa matatu terminus desperately waiting for a ride home. Many give up, opting to start the long trek home. After all, its is better to start walking than to wait for a ride that fails to materialise, leaving you stranded at Muthurwa after dark.

Early the same morning, these same Nairobi residents had to walk from their homes to fulfill whatever obligations they had in the city centre and beyond.

This just barely describes the nightmarish experience that has been re-lived by scores of Nairobi commuters over the past six days.

The directive issued by Local Government minister Uhuru Kenyatta barring most public service vehicles from operating in the Central Business District has had a disastrous effect in the lives of many city residents.

A PLAN THAT HAS FAILED TO TAKE   into account the plight of many Kenyans who are now being forced to endure intolerable conditions just to get to and from work.

The matatu operators, incensed by what they call double standards in the application of the rule, chose to go on strike. They said the long traffic jams into the terminus means they are only making half the number of trips into the city needed to turn a profit.

Police officers engaged the operators in running battles along Jogoo road, lobbing tear gas canisters at them to disperse them.

I for one have had my fair share of run-ins with matatu drivers who made me wish I kept a whip under my car seat. But looking at the manner in which the new rule has been implemented, witnessing the obvious absence of proper planning and its effects on the Eastlands residents who rely on public transport, and topped off by the deafening silence from the minister, leaves me wondering if anyone cares what ordinary folk go through.

The transportation fiasco is taking place as grades of over 4,000 of the 2007 KCSE candidates have been affected by what is being described as computer error.

Actually, the man in charge at the Education ministry said the number of students affected, many having their grades revised downwards, was inconsequential.

Now, as far as I know, a half grade shift could easily cost a student a place in his or her desired university programme, or a place in university altogether. So the minister for Education, Prof Sam Ongeri,  should look deep into the eyes of just one of the 4,000 or so candidates whose hopes have been dashed by the ‘‘computer error’’ and explain to her how inconsequential the fouled up results are.

The questions I should be asking right now are these. Since when did we start using terms like ‘‘inconsequential’’ to describe this country’s children?

Since when did it become acceptable to downplay incidents such as these where the lives of thousands of Kenyans are directly affected by the incompetence of people given charge of such major responsibilities?

These responsibilities include telling this country’s children whether or not they will go to university;  spending and accounting for the 30 per cent tax that comes out of my salary every month.

When well over 1000 Kenyans die in the violence set off by a botched election, and close to half a million others are forced to flee their homes and farms, yet the very people who were in charge of the flawed elections dig in their heels refusing to step down and await the outcome of an inquiry into the event, it becomes very clear that no one is listening.

CONSCIENCE, PRINCIPLE AND accountability, these are words that are becoming increasingly unfamiliar in the vocabulary of many holders of public office.

Somewhere in the US, a governor is found to have used the services of a high class commercial sex worker, and he steps down, acknowledging that he failed his constituents. Kenyans will undoubtedly find it hard to understand this, but let’s remain hopeful.

For the sake of our children, and the future of this country, we must remain optimistic. After all, we can’t afford to let the people determined to stick their fingers in their ears as Kenyans yell in frustration, anger and bitterness get the better of us.

Ms Githongo works with the Nation Media Group, broadcasting division.

Write to the author

About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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