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Sideshows shouldn't distract us from talking about road safety

Over 4,000 Kenyans have died in road accidents since January. over 4,000 Kenyans have died in road accidents since January. [iStockphoto]

It has been an eventful week—like all weeks in Kenya are, thanks to a charged political atmosphere that turns people into zombies who are wired not to see anything wrong or ask questions about poor governance.

On Sunday, the National Transport and Safety Authority, while marking the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, said over 4,000 Kenyans have died in road accidents since January.

The agency said that by November 17, Kenya had recorded 4,103 road accident-related deaths, up from 3,947 recorded in the whole of 2021. Not much was said about these statistics, for, we had better things to make noise about.

Early in the week, the talk was all about the importation of genetically modified maize, and whether it was a healthy option or if it will kill, almost literally, local maize farmers who spent so much to sow but will reap little because the imported grain will be cheaper than theirs.

Before that conversation could be concluded—even after Kenyans were told they are candidates for death just for being in their country—a ship loaded with tens of thousands of tonnes of maize had docked at the port before a gazette notice allowing the importation had been published.

It was clarified that the shipment belonged not to the government and its cronies but to humanitarian agencies for distribution to people hard-hit by drought. No one asked why the humanitarian agencies could not buy maize from local farmers, and kill two birds with one shipment: inject money into the economy and feed the needy. 

In between, there has been the noise about four electoral agency commissioners who are supposed to be kicked out, though no one can put a finger on their crime and say hey, this what they did that is contrary to the laws of the land, so they have to pay the price.

Since when did having a divergent opinion from a popular one become a crime, you may ask. Will it mean that going forward, even judges on a bench will face disciplinary action for having a dissenting opinion from one of the majority that is considered popular?

Before I am told the law is very clear, I want to think our politicians are getting ahead of themselves and want to have zombified holders of constitutional offices who will do the Executive’s bidding and not work for the people.

The noise has made us forget about the concerns of the maize farmers. It is a part of the stifling of free speech, now that word is out that Members of the National Assembly and senators who were breathing fire over the matter have been shushed, and probably cannot remember what their cause was.

Stifling of free speech is creeping in even after Kenyans were told they are free and can call out the government, and journalists knew that their freedom to perform their duties will not be interfered with.

But on Thursday, a harmless journalist was viciously attacked by members of an elite police unit who are assigned only to holders of the highest offices and their spouses.

By Friday, the journalist had not been told what his crime was, and the Cabinet secretary in whose docket media-related matters fall had not spoken even after media stakeholders said action should be taken against the attackers.

The last time the Cabinet secretary was heard of, he was distributing grains in his village and in others across Nyanza, which the government has not listed as needing relief food.

Ironically, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists falls in the month of November. But we wait for the elusive justice; the police have said they are investigating, which is police speak for “that is over.”

As usual, the week could not end without a word from the Deputy President but his silence on the attack on the journalist is too loud for a man who said Kenyans are free to speak their minds and has been leading by example.

Towards the end of the week, he spoke about raising funds for the victims of poor governance. He says Kenyans should donate money to the government which ferried over 300 people to Egypt for a conference.

The Deputy President needs to be reminded that Kenyans already send money to Kenya Revenue Authority, for onward transmission to the National Treasury. He should check with them.

Even as we all make noise about politics and other meaningless issues, we should not forget the statistics on road accidents and deaths provided by the National Transport and Safety Authority. We are heading towards that season when we forget about road safety, and the casualties are at times innocent people going about their businesses. 

Let’s observe road safety today, tomorrow and during the festive season—even though just being in Kenya makes one a candidate for death.