Until we realize the role inequality plays and challenge it; buses won’t be the only thing killing us

Posted by on 17th October 2018

Categories:   Uncategorized

This country treats its poor with an unrivaled disdain. To be poor is not only a crime; it is also punishable by death. Worse still, the country has little time to think about the 55 people who died in a grisly road accident a few days ago.

We’re a country that can’t stick with one story long enough to digest it. We move from one scandal to another and the problems of the majority poor are too much to stay on one thing long enough to deal.

Sadly, the ruling class knows this and is actually counting on it. Not even death can keep us lingering. We’ve moved on to the next hot topic – for now it’s the IEBC drama. The week before the accident, it was the Monica murder and before that, it was the Sharon murder.

We move from one story to another completely numbed; unable to realize how tragic some of these stories are. Not even the fear of consuming deadly sugar has made us pause and think. We are a society conditioned to move on.

Our focus now is on the IEBC. The electoral agency has been treating us to a series of dramatic events since the bungled August 8th General Elections last year. The CEO got fired last week over gross misconduct but the Chairman is now pushing to have him, together with the other commissioners who resigned unceremoniously, charged for abuse of office.

This is a commission whose dismal performance indirectly led to the death and loss of property of majority poor in the slums. If their actions indirectly led to the death of someone important, they would probably been disbanded. But the justice in this country is much slower when it comes to the poor.

We are allergic to proper planning, preferring knee-jerk reactions instead and maybe it’s for this reason that we need to stay a little on this recent road carnage. The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) displays on their website that as of October 8, 2018 – 2,345 people had lost their lives compared to 2,162 who succumbed to their injuries in 2017.

That our MPs suspended their business of the day momentarily to offer condolences to the bereaved families and talk tough shouldn’t come as a surprise. That’s been the established mode of engagement. A building collapses killing hundreds and our MPs will suspend their debate to talk tough and warn imaginary people.

Whether the poor are dying from preventable diseases or poorly constructed buildings or a road accident, the mode of engagement remains the same. In fact the authorities will blame them for renting the houses because they’re supposed to have gone to NEMA to confirm if their landlord had adhered to the standards? The expectations of the leadership of this country on its majority poor is mind-boggling. They will say anything, except taking responsibility.

So 55 people perished and we have moved on and the much the public can do is to quote for each other the statistics and pray they won’t be part of that statistic next year. The majority poor that’s most affected, don’t demand for better either.

The public transport system is run by rogue individuals and SACCOs that are more into profits than the people they’re supposed to be serving. They increase the fare at the sign of rain with no sympathy over majority of their customers who struggle to make ends meet. The matatus are driven dangerously by people who never went to driving schools but the narrative is people are dying because they do not complain to the driver when he’s speeding.

The all important question is: why should the passengers have to remind the driver how fast he should drive when the law requires that these vehicles be fitted with speed-governors and those with faulty ones kept off the road? Have we now delegated this duty to the passengers?

Besides, the NTSA recommended (following increased deaths on the road) that Public Service Vehicles (PSV) operators and companies building bus bodies to observe best practice. Yet, these companies together with the industry operators continue flouting the rules building substandard bodies that are death traps. An NTSA official questioned the point of having seat-belts when the seat itself is thrown out of the bus in the case of an accident?

Forget the public transport system; there’s nothing public in this country that is run efficiently. Not even the government itself. We’re having scandal after scandal with no major consequences or high profile individuals going to jail.

Walk into any public school and you will be met with a sorry state of affairs. From overcrowding to dilapidated infrastructure. Heck! Even the institution charged with publishing books for children in public schools had to recall the books after a public outcry. And that’s a classic case of the lack of thought put in activities meant for the public.

Until as a society we realize our problem is a class problem and address it from that angle; we shall continue dying in public hospitals with no medicine or in un-roadworthy vehicles. How can we push government to be more responsive to its people’s needs regardless of class?


  • by Yash Pal Ghai on 18th October 2018

    I greatly admired your lead article which I saw today--sitting in the comfort of Stockholm. Let us hope that many other people have seen your article--more than seen, but are also reflecting on it.

  • by Baju Zeh on 18th October 2018

    Well analysed! All those begging questions need true answers.Keep it up.