The 'walk to work' fiasco in Nairobi shows politi­cians can't be trusted to run the city

The East African - - OPINION -

pos­si­ble to ac­com­mo­date in the ex­ec­u­tive representatives of all the 43 eth­nic groups. Who will be in and who will be left out?

The ar­gu­ment also has merit, be­cause real or per­ceived marginal­i­sa­tion of a large sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion can be a desta­bil­is­ing fac­tor. But this can­not and must not be the only change to be con­sid­ered. We must re­view other ar­eas in or­der to en­sure not only po­lit­i­cal but also eco­nomic sta­bil­ity, good gov­er­nance and a more co­her­ent sys­tem of jus­tice.

For in­stance, should Nairobi re­vert to cen­tral gov­ern­ment control? This idea has been mooted by a num­ber of peo­ple. But it has been dis­missed with anger, many see­ing the sug­ges­tion as the first step to­wards dis­man­tling de­vo­lu­tion or as a po­lit­i­cal vendetta against the sit­ting gover­nor.

Nairobi is a com­plex city that has unique chal­lenges not present in other coun­tries. It suf­fers from chronic wa­ter short­ages, crip­pling traf­fic jams, poor plan­ning, and run­away crime. It is the home of sev­eral in­ter­na­tional agen­cies and many busi­nesses, and is home to many man­u­fac­tur­ing plants, etc. This com­plex en­tity can­not be left at the mercy of our kind of pol­i­tics.

The eth­nic and messy na­ture of our pol­i­tics means that peo­ple run­ning the city spend much of their time ac­cru­ing po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal so as not to leave them­selves vul­ner­a­ble to vul­tures wait­ing on the side­lines for any signs of po­lit­i­cal weak­ness. Cru­cially, the na­ture of our pol­i­tics does not al­low for a sober in­ter­ro­ga­tion of can­di­dates so that we get the most qual­i­fied and mo­ti­vated to man­age the city.

Some re­cent events sup­port these state­ments. There was the in­ci­dent of MCAS fight­ing phys­i­cally in a bid to oust their Speaker. After­wards, an MCA ad­mit­ted on ra­dio that she had no idea what the role of MCAS was.

Then came the ban on mata­tus from en­ter­ing the CBD. When the ban was an­nounced, even a child could have fore­cast its fail­ure.

Why not make it a phased process, stretch­ing it over two or three years? Start with one route, build con­ve­nient and suf­fi­cient ter­mini, and then use lessons learned from such a pilot to phase in the other routes, one by one. The de­ba­cle shows in­ad­e­quate strate­gic plan­ning ex­per­tise within the county gov­ern­ment. Nairobi, as well as Mom­basa and other cities, re­quires an apo­lit­i­cal team made up of ex­perts in var­i­ous fields to run it.

The other con­sti­tu­tional change we must con­sider is with re­gard to the Se­nate. The con­cern is whether the Se­nate, as presently con­fig­ured, is the most cost-ef­fec­tive in ful­fill­ing its lim­ited man­date. Aside from the crip­pling con­flict of in­ter­est in this ar­range­ment where Sen­a­tors have over­sight of Gover­nors they want to re­place, the Se­nate has proved to be a use­less talk­ing shop.

With so much time and money and so lit­tle to do, Sen­a­tors spend their time on cam­paigns for 2022, at funer­als-cumpo­lit­i­cal ral­lies, on TV pan­els, and for those of them who are lawyers, in courts, rep­re­sent­ing clients.

Fi­nally, sec­tions of the Con­sti­tu­tion that deal with jus­tice must be re­viewed. There is a cu­ri­ous prac­tice in which the rich com­mit crimes and then get an­tic­i­pa­tory bail to stop their ar­rest. Ei­ther make this an au­to­matic right for any­one who com­mits a crime, or elim­i­nate the odd­ity al­to­gether.

And what of peo­ple on mur­der charges be­ing let free with min­i­mal re­stric­tions, ter­ror­ists be­ing given bail to plan their next atroc­ity, and cor­rupt of­fice hold­ers given free ac­cess to their of­fices?

Fi­nally, sec­tions of the Con­sti­tu­tion that deal with jus­tice must be re­viewed. There is a cu­ri­ous prac­tice in which the rich com­mit crimes and then get an­tic­i­pa­tory bail to stop their ar­rest

Pic­ture: File

Com­muters walk­ing to work along Mu­rang’a road in Nairobi on De­cem­ber 3, 2018 as a matatu ban took ef­fect.

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