By Gatonga Kairu
After a tragedy, it is characteristic of Kenyans to raise a storm, and then quickly forget, and gradually move on until another tragedy occurs. Such fleeting attention and commitment is a tragedy in itself because nothing ever changes and the society remains stuck in mediocrity.
It is always hue and cry whenever massacres, road accidents, and, more recently, collapsed buildings occur. But within a couple of weeks, its all forgotten. Perhaps we want to forget quickly because of the apathy of knowing that nothing will be done. Insisting that action is taken is after all not considered a civic duty but as irksome noise by the lords of the status quo.
For instance, the enforcement of traffic laws or building regulations has metamorphosed into an “industry” whose currency is bribery. And while this is common knowledge, the official position is always to deny that corruption is pervasive, and then promise “stern action”.
Neither the traffic department nor City Hall is blessed with forthright and bold leadership that can confront the culture of bribery once and for all. It appears that our institutions are progressively grinding to a halt and in some cases, losing focus of their mandate.
The case of the collapsed buildings betrays a disappointing level of sloth and inefficiency inherited from the former City Council and now flourishing under the Nairobi County government. Whenever a building collapses in Nairobi, you can bet your last cow in the barn that there will be suspensions and a task force formed to “investigate” one thing or another.
There is no evident commitment whatsoever to have safe and secure building and the county government actually rides on the diligence of professionals where proper construction takes place. It is probable that vested interests have strangled all good intentions at City Hall so that order and discipline have become an anathema instead of the norm.
When such important institutions fail to work as they are supposed to and invent their own informal objectives, the common man suffers because he lacks the ability to obtain any services. Gradually, only the elite with the wherewithal will be served. Eventually, the government will therefore belong to the rich with the masses left out.
Such a scenario breeds inequality and resentment and makes nonsense of any economic development even as it drags the country into deep social-economic problems. Our institutions must always be guided by the law and the common good lest the gains made and the lessons learnt go to waste.
The writer is a Quantity Surveyor and the Honorary Secretary of the Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya (IQSK) The views expressed here are his own.