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Politicians, keep your rallies off our roads

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto when they addressed Nairobi residents at Muthurwa Market and Machakos Country Bus Station. [File, Standard]

 “Let there be traffic!” some demigods frequently declare. And movement in Nairobi stops.

The young man about to become a father will not hear his baby’s first cry, since he will be stuck in traffic for three hours, long after the newborn enters this world.

His neighbour, a young lady hunting for a job for the past three years and recently earned her first interview, will remain unemployed.

The interview had been scheduled for 9am. She left home two hours earlier but will be stuck in traffic until midday.

Her friend, tired after working all day at some factory, just wants to get home and rest. Getting home usually takes an hour. But not today. Thousands more will have their plans disrupted: missed flights; missed dates; missed targets for matatu operators.

But all these city dwellers will have the next time for all their plans.

The new dad can have a second child and hear their first cry. The jobless youth will have another interview. The factory worker will rest the next day. Planes fly every day.

Dates aren’t really that important and matatu drivers care little about putting food on the table. Really?

Such second chances are unavailable to the unconscious woman who had childbirth complications. She will lie in an ambulance, hoping to get to a facility that can handle her case quickly.

Her journey, and that of her child’s, will, however, not end in the hospital.

The ambulance will wail away, but all that will fall on deaf ears. The sound of the siren, a mere amplification of the desperate gasps of a dying woman, won’t matter. It will be noise to the politician responsible for causing the traffic.

They can’t be more important than the politician’s need to hurl “puppet” or “thief” insults.

Her cries can’t be more urgent than the false promises “the fifth” will be peddling hundreds of metres away: that they will ensure free maternal healthcare, and hence reduce maternal mortality rate to zero per cent; they will create jobs and many other lies.

She will die without seeing her child, and the child without seeing her because some politicians decided Nairobi’s roads offer a better venue for their campaigns than grounds set aside for public gatherings.

They call it “coming to the people where they are”. Others call them “meet the people tours.” But at what cost, our dear honourables? Why cause untold suffering to the same people you represent?

How about some manners for once, waheshimiwa? Believe it or not, Kenyans have a lot more going for them than just listening to your lies. Not everyone enjoys listening to your voices.

We have donated our children’s playing grounds for your rallies and ceded our homesteads. We are borrowing billions as a country to construct roads, and I’m sure we aren’t turning into beggars to construct venues for your rallies.

As inconceivable as it sounds, the highways and expressways are meant to ease Nairobi’s traffic, a situation that we shouldn’t get worse at any cost.

People die in traffic; our nation loses billions for every minute we waste motionless.

No, waheshimiwa, you don’t cause all of Nairobi’s traffic, but when you do, you outdo yourselves. This week has proven just how good you are at bringing things to a standstill. 

We are convinced that you hold immense powers and now you can go back to meeting people in fields. Those who love you will still come. It wouldn’t hurt to keep your rallies off our roads, would it?

The writer is a reporter at The Standard