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Behold, a nation of ‘squatters’ and flying toilets

STUDIES
By | June 29th 2009

By Ted Malanda

This great country is suffering from a bout of diarrhoea. The politicians are doing their usual verbal thing. But now, the common mwananchi is squatting in the nearby bush in solidarity with their leaders.

When you think about it, this should be no surprise. Truth is that in as much as this country is the pompous ‘Magical Kenya’, our landscapes, beaches and wildlife second to none, our citizens the happiest in the world and we have no matata, magical Kenya is one hell of a dirty place.

A few years ago, The Standard’s very own Oscar Obonyo won the CNN Journalist of the Year Award for a tale on Lake Victoria. His story was headlined, "This lake stinks". And he was right.

So next time you are burping away after a sumptuous, finger-licking dish, you might wish to reflect on the life that your fish led in that lake that stinks. Think also about the journey the fish took to a dusty market in the city. And then ponder on the grimy roadside shack where it was fried. When you do all this, you will want to dash to the nearest Catholic priest — irrespective of his marital or sexual inclinations — and shout 10 Hosannas to the Highest.

You are lucky to be alive my good friend because if you recall your geography, there are a couple of rivers whose waters pour into Lake Victoria.

These rivers are in turn fed by streams, springs and the like. And along all these waterways, villagers squat and, without a care in the world, blissfully discharge all manner of vermin that rivers sweep all the way to Egypt.

Raw sewage

When villagers are not conspiring to discharge cholera-causing germs into the lake, all factories, hotels and even hospitals routinely discharge raw sewage into rivers and lakes. Not to be outdone, even local authorities do the same. In fact, I recall that in 2002, the Kisumu Municipal Council used to discharge raw sewage into Lake Victoria, right within Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, a stone’s throw from the Kisumu State Lodge and the Prime Minister’s Kisumu residence.

Once the lake is stinking, fishermen proceed to drink, swim and bathe in the cesspool. Cows drink too, oily cars are washed while women draw water for domestic use right at the same spot they bathed a minute earlier. And yet it is in this lake that stinks that the fish you ate for lunch or dinner was raised.

If you devour this fish at that car wash on the shores of the lake, you will be competing with flies. Hungry folk will drive by furiously, too, raising dust and bacteria onto your plate of delicacies. But try as you might, you will not see a single toilet or source of running water in the darned place. Where that sea of workers does their ablutions is a mystery.

No water

If that fish travels to Nairobi, it will still be accompanied by a horde of flies. Then it will be washed in yesterday’s barrel of water. Chances are, also, that the only form of ablution available to whoever fried your fish is a flying toilet.

Of course there is no running water or a toilet in that roadside shack where you are partaking of the fish from the lake that stinks. And yet we have the cheek to demand a ministerial statement on why everyone is running from toilet to toilet and dying from diarrhoea.

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