The Rains Have Come,And They Will Go. What Will We Have Learnt?

That our roads,for a start,need a makeover,whose funding will come from our pockets.

Everything that’s wrong with our infrastructure,really. From flooded roads,estates,to flash floods and river swells; poorly constructed buildings, power poles caving in…

We will have sat for hours in traffic(maybe we should try calculate individual average time spent in traffic) and it won’t be a hyperbole! No,it will not. We will endure punctures and several visits to the mechanic; a bump here,a dent there. We will have burnt up so much fuel!(But not to worry,we seem to be striking up more oil up north!)

We will whine,sigh,curse,pray,whine some more,pray against the rain…

Being an election year, we’ll affirm our seemingly collective vow to send all MPs,MPigs,MVultures and Mayors home!

The rains will clear up and the skies will be cloudless again. In no time,it’ll be as though it all never happened. The swamps and pools of water will dry up in no time, paving way for more overlapping space,nay, ‘more room for us to drive on’)

We will bring out our sundresses and sandals,and our sunglasses. We’ll again look forward to outdoor events,darn the rains for messing with our social scene!

The traffic situation will still be the same; we’ll turn on our ACs,and beg the passenger near the window in a PSV to yank it open for some fresh air as we marinate in the ensuing heat…wonder when it’ll rain again…

I think I’ve made my point…or have I?

The following is for those who’ve had enough of this vicious circle/cycle!

I love the rainy season; the cool weather it brings,especially. But more importantly,I find rain to be a reminder of everything that’s wrong with our infrastructure,as stated earlier, a ‘natural’ audit,if you will.

By now,we probably know which roads to avoid,which parts of the city not to bother heading towards at all if possible. We know where to expect floods,car stalls,snarl-ups and impasses, and where to anticipate a whole new breed of potholes!

What’s even more interesting is that it’s even so with the newly constructed and yet-to-be-finished roads! This one’s particularly tragic. Given the few new roads I’ve travelled on in Nairobi,I’ve noticed lots of water pile-ups,and so have you,I’m sure. Add that to the lack of road signs on most of these roads,the complete absence of traffic lights,the rarity of traffic policemen on them…point made.

Now,these roads are still under construction(thankfully). A sign,if ever there was one,that we ought to pay attention to the work that’s already inconveniencing us so!

Surely,I can’t be the only one who sees this as time for a social audit! A collective,social audit! ie,not done by one person who then reports back to the rest of the world,but one where a good number of us are in the loop,are vested in!
All stars seemed to be aligned to illuminate the problem,and we continue to issue a wrong diagnosis! We curse leaders and authorities,highlight their shortcomings(granted,it’s not that difficult)… experts,we are, at shifting blame and responsibility!

Imagine with me,a situation where we map all flooded roundabouts and roads that have produced more potholes, and compare that against all roads currently under construction,whose contracts are yet to be completed. Imagine if we,for once,quit waiting on who can only be a Messiah,to translates our wishes into actions. Imagine with me if we-if only for a brief period of time-if we took back responsibility(it really is ours) to appraise the ongoing work,asked for the terms of agreement to know what’s been promised in terms of delivery.

Would it kill us?

I find the Kenyan online community so well inter-connected,unbelievably creative! We may not represent a big enough percentage of the greater populace,but we are immensely influential!

I am such a crusader for collective effort,and before us is a collective problem. Very few(if any) among us are exempt from this nightmare.

What am I doing?

Since it begins with me, I’m looking for these documents,the plans that have been laid out,whether vision 2030 or project China-Wu-Yi and/or Sheng-Li. I’m looking for contacts at the Traffic Department of the Kenya Police, the Kenyan Urban Roads Authority and the City Council of Nairobi. All in a bid to understand what they are doing,but more importantly,how I can help,and how anyone else who’s fed up with the status quo can.

I realize that wasting my time hurling insults and trending topics on inconveniences rendered me does very little to alleviate the problem. So,I might as well take a different approach.

For instance,I’m dead set on seeing #OverlapKE,for instance, assist with the overlapping menace. (Those behind the initiative have no choice but to bear with me!)Collated data must translate to some commitment to action. I’ll try find matatu sacco owners,cab companies and bus services and show them these facts. This is in no way a one-man job,but I’m ready to at least do something different,we all know what Einstein defined insanity to be!

Most importantly,I’m looking for like-minded people!

What if those of us who have connections tried to use them for some collective good for a change? To whip up some information that should be in public domain in the first place,eg the Nairobi City Council bylaws?

Wishful thinking? I don’t know. But I’m not ruling out the option of trying things differently because it’s the path less travelled!

If I’m going to bear an inconvenience,it might as well be for some greater,sustainable good!

What about you? Business as usual,or business unusual?

(Written while seated squarely in traffic.)

You might also like: Why Kenyan Motorists are racing to a traffic standstill. Some highlights:

  • Traffic congestion ranks as the number one topic of discussion on social media sites, alongside an unprecedented number of power blackouts in many estates, which also began with the onset of the rains.
  • A study by the East African branch of the tech giant IBM found that the economy loses about Sh50 million per day in traffic jams, translating into wastage of about to Sh18.3 billion annually.
  • IBM East Africa has proposed new generation road licenses installed with chips that record the offences of drivers caught driving recklessly.
Another worthwhile read: Wide Roads and Narrow Minds by Clay Muganda.

Author: Nanjira

Perched at the intersection of tech & governance, media, culture.

  • Well articulated Nanjira. The number of tweets and/or blog posts written to highlight the issues we all know to well do little but get us all nodding our heads in agreement.
    So I’ll begin by trying to get hold of the contract details for the recently recarpeted Waiyaki Way as well as Magadi Road (Bomas to Ongata Rongai). I at least expect that the contract requires that the work is done to withstand various weather conditions and also have a quality guarantee to ensure that ridges and potholes don’t start showing up 3 weeks after the contractor leaves the site.

    • Exactly!

      Let’s start listing these contracts,I believe they ought to be in public domain,as well as the numbers/contacts of these contractors. For all we know,they are busy tweeting alongside us,but getting away with shoddy business.
      Let’s set up sites monitoring these roads under construction,what works,what needs to be done:drainage, pedestrian/cyclists pathways. It’s in so doing that we’ll have that sense of a vested interest,IMO.
      Let’s do what we can,a definite one-up from mere complaining!

  • Cnelgm

    lets remember all those who have lost their lives to this weather but also to the manyyyy who have been made homeless. if the worst thing that happened to you was being stuck in traffic for many hours and then you getting home to find you have no lights you are still blessed because many in and outside Nairobi currently have nowhere to live due to their houses being flooded or washed away but i agree something needs to be done and it must start with us!

    • Indeed! Today’s news headline in the dailies astonished me! Too many lives being lost via avoidable circumstances.
      However,we sometimes use these unfortunate events to make ourselves feel better,and in turn perpetrating the problem. it is unfortunate that lives are being lost,but that in no way excuses the absurd traffic,or the fact that Kenya Power are failing on their deliverables. For as long as we keep shifting our thinking to ‘things could be worse’,we will be digging further and further down the pit that we’re already so deep into.
      Food for thought.

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