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Baptism by fire as Governor Sonko faces a harsh reality

By Sunday Standard team | Published Sun, February 4th 2018 at 09:13, Updated February 4th 2018 at 09:26 GMT +3
Garbage dumped on the road in Eastleigh, Nairobi [Willis Awandu, Standard]

At the height of the cholera outbreak in July last year, Mike Sonko led journalists to a blocked man hole that was spewing sewage on Kipande Road in Nairobi. As cars splashed the murky stinky water providing a perfect background for the cameras just weeks to the elections, the furious senator had no kind words for Governor Evans Kidero.

“Why is it that among all counties in the country, it is only Nairobi that has cholera?” he asked.

“It is because Nairobi is dirty, the governor has failed to improve sewerage system. He is unable to provide water to Nairobians. All these are symptoms of bad leadership,” said Sonko.

Backed by youth under the ‘Sonko Rescue Team,’ his slogan “Let’s Fix Nairobi” sounded like a magic wand. After all he was a popular senator who was coming from outside the political class which had been blamed for failing the masses and Kidero had long fallen out of favour with the electorate.

Fast forward five months later, the shoe is on the other foot. Sonko is now the city boss. It is however apparent Nairobians are facing the same problems he had fought so hard when he was senator. Nothing has been heard of the Sonko Rescue Team since they protested over their pay in November last year.

Blaming opponents

An order to ban boda bodas in town has been ignored, hawkers have refused to leave the CBD and the taps are dry.

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“It is worse, security is bad. Nairobi is very dirty, street families all over. It was better organised before but now the back lanes are dirty and people are urinating everywhere,” Sophie Selleto, a trader, told the Sunday Standard.

“People are mugged in broad day light. This has made people to leave there valuables in the offices as they walk on the streets. Hawkers are everywhere, scaring people,” Sarah Anunda complained. 

Some, however, think it is still too early to judge the governor who has only been in office for 150 days.

“He could have done better than what we are seeing now. Let us be fair and give him time,” said George Macharia, a businessman.

The governor, who was voted in by an overwhelming majority, has in the last few weeks been on the defensive, blaming his political opponents for sabotaging his administration.

The most recent of such defence came through a post on his Facebook page last Monday about the resurgence of crime in the CBD which was quickly pulled down.

“The city is safe but you will still see people commenting badly,” he said attracting the wrath of residents.

“Those suspects who are armed are not muggers. We have also received intelligence report that they are politically sponsored,” he said.

Such has been the interaction between the residents and its leadership which some say may soon condemn the city to ruins.

From garbage collection challenges, to hawkers taking over the streets and estates, mugging in the streets, dry water taps and traffic congestion, the list keeps growing.

And each problem is met with a knee jerk reaction without a clear plan of execution. Two weeks ago, the governor set up an anti-mugging squad after residents complained of criminal gangs in the CBD.

While most residents understand that Sonko is only a few months old in office and perhaps needs time to address some of these challenges, the lack of clear and sustainable plan is worrying.

During last year’s campaigns, Sonko promised to slash the Sh300 parking fees by half, reduce licensing fees for small traders and abolish fees for certain businesses. He however failed to state how he would plug the revenue gap. 

In his first 100 days in office, the governor pledged to revoke irregular contracts, launch a new immunisation campaign, embark on clean up of rivers and shut down illegal water points.

“Within three weeks of assuming office we will organize “The Nairobi We Want Convention” to meet all stakeholders including resident’s associations, to discuss and developing a fully costed Nairobi Reform Master-plan,” his manifesto reads in part.

“We shall conduct a audit of the water and sewage systems to identify points of leakage and develop a plan to remedy the problems plus launch clean water, no rubbish no effluent campaign,” he said.

Hawkers on a section of Ngara in Nairobi using a footpath meant for pedestrians to sell their wares. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Rushed policies

In realitys howevers Sonko’s reign just like Kidero’ss has been a cacophony of trials, rushed policies, indecisiveness and fights at City Hall that have the capital crying for leadership.

The governor has found himself in a spot where h has to implement policies he fought as Senator and implement rules against his core support base.

“The lack of clear and sustainable plan in solving some of these problems is worrying. The county government is coming out as being more reactive than proactive,” complained Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations CEO Henry Ochieng.

In September last year, the governor gave matatus 30 days to self-regulate or be barred from the CBD. This is after he reversed an earlier decision to ban them from town when he met stake holders.

On Friday Sonko indicated that plans are still on to get matatus out of town.

“We have also managed to pay for seven new bus terminuses for PSV operators outside CBD which will be officially handed over to the Nairobi City County by next week,” he said in a statement.

But Matatu Welfare Association chair Dickson Mbugua, insists there has to be all inclusive talks to come up with a solution acceptable by all.

“The governor should know these are privately owned investments. The governor cannot side with rejects in the industry and then purport to be creating a solution to the traffic crisis,” Mr Mbugua told Sunday Standard.

Sonko has not only abolished fees levied to hawkers but also allowed them in town from 2 pm on specific lanes a situation that has been blamed on upsurge of crime.

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