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Opinion: Stop cursing President Uhuru over Thika Road fiasco

By Andrew Kipkemboi | April 18th 2021

Police check essential service providers' passes past curfew on Thika Road on April 18, 2021. [Emmanuel Too, Standard]

The traffic officer perched on his mammoth motorbike is usually stationed on Likoni Road facing oncoming cars. Too frustrated to follow along and turn back, most motorists will drive over the kerb to join Road C. Like a predator, the officer will sprint and catch you at the “mouth” of Road C.

Most of the motorists will negotiate their way out of the “little” trouble because soon, the officer is back at his spot. The rest are least bothered until they are on the receiving end. Isn’t the officer’s work facilitating traffic and ensuring everyone gets to their destination with little inconvenience?

In a way, the officer is culpable. But don’t you think the officer – like most of us – has just found a way to live off the myriad of inconveniences that we live through as a society. Where rather than address the real issues, we assume the NIMBYism- Not In My Backyard- stance.

In this case, the shambolic transport system and a poorly designed road network where there are no are signage or proper information on traffic movement and therefore great inconvenience to road users?

Motorists in gridlock on Thika Road past curfew on April 18, 2021. [Emmanuel Too, Standard]

Many of the thousands of motorists stuck on Thika Road on Saturday night felt (rightly) that their government doesn’t really care. Yet government believes it has a duty of care to take precautionary measures to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus. But it has done so little to keep its side of the bargain.

In Kenya, as in the rest of the world, the Covid-19 is testing every known norm. It is not testing just the medicare system, it is also testing political systems, the social and economic establishments and the social contract. How do you keep millions safe without ruining jobs and livelihoods?

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It is true that issues of public health are complex and therefore require more thought than a demonstration of brawn to solve (as we saw on Saturday). But how do you justify the inability of the government to provide social protection for the most vulnerable whose only way of earning a living involves mass mobility and therefore immeasurable risk to themselves?

In a properly working setup, Government is first and foremost an enabler of things; a good government makes it easy for the citizens to do what is right and hard to do wrong especially in times of pandemics and calamities such as these.

The people on Thika Road were mostly from work and business or having a drink with family and friends. Wouldn’t it have been better to facilitate their quick movement rather than block them and then cause a super-spreader event in the ensuing frustration and melee? Never mind that government believes lockdowns and curfews can flatten the curve somehow.

The good thing about the social contract is that it doesn’t say it is for good or worse. On Saturday, a lot of the bile was directed at President Uhuru Kenyatta. After all, the people voted for him.

In truth, most politicians have no understanding of, or, interest in the lives and the concerns of ordinary citizens. Rather than being inured to being marginalised from politics, except as masses to be roused for some cause or as rabble with which to frighten the bourgeois and the other tribe, the people should stay woke and act.

The state of uniform, unquestioning thinking only has worst-case scenarios: It emboldens the elite to capture the State, dominate business, control the courts, bully the media and mistreat its citizens.

-Mr Kipkemboi is Partnerships and Special Projects Editor, Standard Group

Covid 19 Time Series


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