Days after a six-story apartment building collapsed in Huruma -- killing scores, injuring hundreds and causing millions in damages -- President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the arrest of one Samuel Kamau, the (building's) owner. The collapse was triggered in part by another tragedy that vividly illustrates the real and true cost and impact of corruption, incompetence and impunity in Kenya: the recent floods in Nairobi.
Both events revealed a city whose growth has been poorly planned and managed; a city whose infrastructure has not been maintained; left instead to the vagaries of its well-connected and rapacious city fathers and the cartels they control -- since independence.
Let me state categorically that with adequate systems and oversight, the sub-standard constructions and overwhelmed infrastructure/storm drainage system are preventable, at least mitigatable.
Like clockwork, the now demonstrably incompetent and unaccountable Governor of Nairobi Mr. Evans Kidero offered his post-mortem of the flooding by blaming past governments for the "City in the Sun's" less-than-sunny response to the floods. The former Managing Director of the bankrupt Mumias Sugar Company went on to offer a "Top 11 List" of excuses why the city cannot cope with heavy rains even though its residents pay taxes and a potpourri of fees for city and county services ostensibly to prepare it for such eventualities.
Taken together and juxtaposed with the intolerable traffic, the portmanteau "Nairobbery" and the inexorable and widespread corruption, it is a wonder Nairobi continues to "function" at all; that it has not ground to a halt. It is equally surprising that Nairobians have not run Mr. Kidero and the county council out of town or strung them up and demanded back their tax shillings as a condition for being unstrung and lowered down!
Likewise, given the litany of tragedies and miscues that have befallen Kenya and can be directly tied to President Uhuru Kenyatta's incompetence and poor leadership, it is a wonder Kenyans continue to believe anything the man says: That they have not staged their own "Kenyan Spring" and run the man affectionately and aptly known as "Kamwana" or "Little One" out of office!
President Kenyatta and Governor Kidero, the two political leaders respectively at the helm of the tormented country and city have both demonstrated erratic, paranoid and haphazard responses to gross malfeasance and incompetence that is simply unacceptable. Both individuals, supposed students of politics AND management have been literally deaf and blind to the cries and needs of their constituents.
While President Kenyatta displays a disarming and beguiling bonhomie that has endeared him to many; frankly insulated him from the many missteps he has had throughout his term, Mr. Kidero's gruff personality and temperament is legendary as one Rachel Shebesh found out early in the governor's first term in office.
His personal charm aside, the President has repeatedly offered an assortment of lame, churlish and convenient non sequiturs re: WHY he cannot take direct and punitive action against gross malfeasance, incompetence and suspected illegalities perpetrated by his appointees including those working in the Office of the President:
That he "is constrained by the Constitution" or hindered by an opposition that "engages in negative politics". These are responses that turn on its head the signature mantra of competent and accountable leadership:
The buck stops with the person in charge.
And far from being a characterization that is one's opinion, the president's incompetence in the wake of the collapsed six-story structure has been evidenced by revelation that he issued a directive in January 2015 (after the last collapsed building), received recommendations for specific actions aimed at mitigating recurrence and a year later, not one of recommendations had been enacted! It also does not help when the president himself is accused of "repeated interference on various issues" related to enforcement of demolition edicts.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the same president who has not acted -- visibly, fairly and consistently -- on recommendations of the Ndungu Commission (on land reforms) or Truth, Justice & Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Report (on the 2007/8 post-election violence) has not acted on recommendations of the National Construction Authority aimed at alleviating sub-standard constructions.
Similarly, Gov. Kidero, in this latest illustration of a rudderless county government, opted to offer a listing of WHYs and WHO to blame for the clogged storm drainage system, uncollected trash and nightmare traffic -- 3 years into his governorship. The same governor who responded "swiftly" (and violently) when Ms. Shebesh's "violated his personal space"; who then went on to become the nation's laughing stock because his organization thought newly-planted "Kidero Grass" would flourish and blossom in time to beautify the city for the visiting US President Barack Obama has not been able to ensure that his constituents receive consistent trash pick-up or unclogged storm drains even after repeated flooding AND three years of tax revenue receipts.
If Kenyans had any doubts about the real consequences of their repeated selection of corrupt, incompetent and unaccountable leadership, the two events described above should put those doubts to rest.