Friday, October 8, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

October 7, 2010

Where is Okiyah Omtata? Where are John Githongo and Mwalimu Mati, Kivutha Kibwana and Timothy Njoya? Where are Njeri Kabeberi and Philo Ikonya? These are the great Kenyans that come to mind when a national issue is at stake. Now, more than ever before, Kenyans need their services because the lords of impunity seem to have forgotten that we are in a new dispensation. Somebody needs to remind them that the new constitution empowers any Kenyan to take a public official to court for either misappropriating public funds or failing to deliver services for which the individual earns a salary.

Let me start with a little story that appeared in the Corridors of Power in the Star Newspaper issue of Thursday this week. In that little story, a senior figure at the National Assembly has bought a new top-of-the-range and custom-made Mercedes Benz S Class from a local motor dealer and paid Ksh 22 million. The story continues to suggest that the cheque was delivered to the motor dealer early in the week and was drawn on Parliament’s Account. Now, the question that comes begging that Kenyans must seek answers for is this: How come the purchase of such a vehicle is being made more than a year after the government banned the purchase of vehicles whose engine capacity is above 1800? What happened to the Passat directive? How did the National Assembly approve such an obnoxious purchase when fellow Kenyans are eating dogs in Turkana as they wait for relief food from our international aid agencies? Where is the Treasury that gave the order on Passats in 2009? Where is the KAAC to deal with this blatant impunity?

At Nairobi City Hall it seems like the bad old days are back with us. If street children are not back begging on our streets, garbage heaps are turning into mountains with each passing day in many parts of our residential areas. Our streets are getting darker with each passing day.

Smokers and noise makers have joined lawless matatu and CITTI HOPPA buses in terrorizing pedestrians and other motorists at will. Parking space in the CBD has ceased to exist even as business people struggle to conduct business in this city that is slowly turning into a jungle.

When Philip Kisia was appointed the Town Clerk to replace John Gakuo, some of us were apprehensive; not sure whether he would fit into the big shoes of his predecessor. Despite our misgivings, we chose to give him a chance to try his hand at bringing sanity to the City Hall. And when he gave a few press conferences soon after taking office, his tough talk seemed to give Nairobians hope that things might even get better. However, almost two years later, Nairobians can now only yawn at hearing the name of Philip Kisia. As I sat down to write this article, I asked my colleague if she knew Kisia’s first name. She quickly reminded me that it was Philip but went ahead to ask me where Philip was and what he was doing nowadays!

Now that was a shocker to me. If a renowned editor of a newspaper working in the CBD wasn’t sure of what Philip was currently doing, it meant that Philip Kisia has gone missing in action.

In a recent article in one of Sunday papers, a curious commentator asked the logic of City Hall attempting to raise funds through floating of their bonds. He was of the opinion that the project failed to attract investors simply because to do so would mean publishing a credible balance sheet to assure prospective investors that there money was safe at City Hall.

Going back to the era of John Gakuo, perhaps the most successful Town Clerk in modern times, one would have expected that any future Town Clerk would strive to do better not worse. As it is, the first things to go were the beautification flowers and trees along Uhuru Highway and Kenyatta Avenue that Gakuo laboriously worked on for many years. Soon after Gakuo left City Hall, someone in his wisdom thought trees and flowers were an eyesore for city residents and had to be replaced with stones, pebbles and black soil.

John Gakuo fought many battles with hawkers and street families to keep the streets safe and clean and he succeed. His next battle front was the installation of street lights in all parts of Nairobi as he repaired the roads in the most forgotten parts of Eastlands. Again he largely succeeded.

During Gakuo’s tenure, smokers had designated smoking zones in Nairobi. Nowadays, Kenyans are freely puffing away on the streets as they carelessly cross the streets without bothering since City askaris have either been deployed to do other duties or they too have copied the complacency at City Hall.

We have anti- smoking laws that prohibit anybody from smoking in a public place including restaurants and night clubs. We also have laws that prohibit noise of a certain level on our streets and neighborhoods. Yet, when you walk around the city in broad daylight you can’t miss good old Kenyans breaking these laws with impunity! Has the City Hall given up on Nairobians?

Public servants that are paid to deliver services to us and use our public resources diligently must by law do exactly that or they should honorably quit their positions if they have failed the test.