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Our few shining moments are often overshadowed by evil

By | August 27th 2010

By Joe Ombuor

What sets us aside as Kenyans on a continent so blighted and smudged with all manner of dirt?

There is no gainsaying the fact that our long distance runners are world-beaters. In that regard, they are probably our nation’s most conspicuous ambassadors, as shown during the Senior African Athletics Championships in Nairobi.

Our scorecard was boosted by the recently concluded, peaceful and highly successful referendum. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIEC) has joined the ranks of Kenya’s showcase institutions, effectively erasing the shame of Electoral Commission of Kenya.

On the aviation front, our national carrier has lived up to its motto, ‘the pride of Africa’. KQ, as Kenya Airways is better known, has made movement within Africa much easier.

I felt so proud as a Kenyan when I travelled by KQ from Amsterdam to Nairobi with passengers making connecting flights in Nairobi.

And while flying to Cote D’Ivoire recently, my pride overflowed as I viewed homegrown comedies featuring the likes of Tahidi High’s "Omosh" and commercials starring our own Charles Otieno.

We also host the only United Nations Office in Africa and the entire developing world–––a big feather to our cap.

But sadly, our seedy side outweighs our virtues. Look at our politicians and what you see are Members of Parliament obsessed with their stomachs to the extent of striving to blackmail the Government to bleed the nation to make their purses fatter.

Councillors are no better as demonstrated by their meeting with the President sometimes back. They wanted more pay or shoot down the Constitution that will be promulgated this Friday.

And what is uglier than senior politicians, some of them Cabinet ministers, brazenly lying to their gullible electorate as happened during the referendum campaigns? What a shame that a Cabinet minister could tell his people that they would be taxed for their dogs and cats if the new Constitution is passed.

citadels of ethnicity

That tribe for us comes before nation is no secret as borne out by our near disintegration after the discredited 2007 General Election, bungled to satisfy tribal chauvinism and ego by people who believe power belongs only to their ethnic group..

Our universities have become citadels of ethnicity instead of the towers of learning they are supposed to be. The shame ranges from tribally conducted student union elections to top administrators nominated on purely ethnic considerations depending on where the institutions are located.

Then, there is the matatu culture, a chaotic mode of public transport that is typically Kenyan with its main hallmarks being lawless driving and exploitation of desperate commuters.

It is a system in total disharmony with the status of Nairobi as the commercial capital of East Africa.

In our usual greed and the get rich quick syndrome that defined the Kanu era, Kenya’s railway system suffocated to death by official corruption.

Those in positions of power and influence grabbed railway land, leaving room only for the dilapidated century old railroad that has proved impossible to resuscitate, hence encouraging talks of standard gauge railway.


Kenya Bus Service that for decades gave Nairobi enviable commuter service was yet another casualty of runaway greed painfully succeeded by the anarchic matatu commuter service.

Though security has improved in Nairobi and other cities, incidents of mugging, carjacking and kidnapping are still worrying. More needs to be done to bolster safety.

Ombuor is The Standard’s a features writer

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