HOW URBAN PLANNING IMPACTS ON NATIONAL SAFETY AND SECURITY (By Jeremiah Atho Ougo)

Urban Planning & Development House

(The writer, an Urban Planner, works with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in Nairobi. He sits in the Governing Council of the Kenya Institute of Planners (KIP) and is Assistant Registrar of the Institute. He is a former Physical Planner with United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Lutheran World Federation)



Within a period of 20 days, six innocent Kenyans lost their precious lives in two of Nairobi’s high density residential zones when two separately located but almost structurally similar buildings in Makongeni and Huruma caved in. I emphasize the density because; existing city planning guidelines categorize Nairobi into zones and; on very rear occasions do we hear buildings collapse in low density up market residential zones of the city. It should be noted that such high density zones are usually characterized by densely occupied multi-story structures as opposed to the high income low density residential zones of the…

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Road safety is no rocket science… we can achieve it

Road safety is no rocket science… we can achieve it.

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Save Kenya. Press the ‘Pause’ button

Save Kenya. Press the ‘Pause’ button.

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Save Kenya. Press the ‘Pause’ button

I feel so sad when I read about what is happening in my motherland Kenya. We have a self-declared digital government but I’m ashamed of the fact that we are using the digital platform to tear each other apart, rather than using ICT to building our nation. Our mainstream media is also hereby accused of openly taking sides and carelessly propagating lies and hatred towards certain communities. You have been known to twist headlines and change stories with the sole aim of attracting more readers, viewers and listeners. You thrive more on sensational reporting as opposed to exceptional reporting. The media has the best chance to unite this country but instead, profits are the main motivator.  

My understanding of the situation in Kenya is that many communities are feeling left out of state appointments, which according to the new constitution must reflect the diverse face of our independent nation. The new regime has been accused of replacing officers at high levels with those from only one community. One half of the ruling coalition has also joined the bandwagon in raising concerns about unequal and inequitable distribution of state appointments. The truth of the matter is that we have skewed and heavily imbalanced distribution of those lucrative positions.

For example, why should we have one community in control of the Treasury, Revenue collection system, all key positions in the Transportation docket filled by one community … These grievances are real and cannot be ignored. Kenyans have every right to feel short-changed and to express their dissatisfaction with the government. These are not things we should easily afford to “Accept and move on” especially with this crop of Kenyans who understand the constitution and want it fully implemented, making amendments as and when required to reflect the dynamism of the Kenyan society.

Kenyans are now living under constant threat of terror attacks, car-jacking, armed robberies and other forms of insecurity. It cannot be business as usual; we have every right to demand better security from the government. Telling us “Usalama unaanza na mimi …” is a PR gimmick and an admission of the failure by state security organs in which we have invested huge sums of money in previous years with no tangible results. I fear that an independent forensic examination into our national security expenditure might uncover dark secrets that are best guarded by the clique of people who have remained at the helm of our security organs for the past five decades. I know the military has some sophisticated gadgets and technology, some of which is displayed during national celebrations, but the manner of acquisition often leaves analysts baffled, especially because security contracts are shrouded with mystery and are never subjected to public scrutiny.

Could the state please and as a matter of urgency construct proper housing units for all members of our police force? Putting our hardworking police officers in colonial-style tin huts or dilapidated mud-walled houses with grass-thatched roofs, with no provision for privacy, no running water, no proper toilets and bathrooms is so demoralizing. Then we shamelessly expect such officers to diligently protect the lives and property of Kenyans. Nothing can prevent such officers from turning into alcoholics, or colluding with criminals or soliciting for bribes in the course of their duties. Meanwhile, their clueless bosses are busy getting everything wrong, from blaming explosions on innocent bulbs, ordering Kenyans to remove tints from their private cars, to arresting fake Al Shabaab tweeps.

It is not surprising that when Kenyans criticize and demand better services from the state, those from the president’s backyard come out fighting and redirecting attention to the previous regime which we all know was a coalition government that was formed on a give-and-take basis simply to get us out of the pit that we as a country fell into in the aftermath of the 2007 General Elections. Interestingly, during the tenure of the previous government, certain people never wasted any opportunity to remind the rest of Kenya that there was indeed only one president and that the position of PM was more like that of a “Class Prefect” but now when it comes to apportioning blame to the previous regime, we are reminded that the “PM was part of the government and RAO should therefore take blame for the blunders of the Kibaki administration” well, I’m not privy to how the two men worked but I know that security as a sensitive and important docket was and remains directly under to the Head of State. Information in the public domain suggests that the PM was an unwanted partner in the coalition and was treated with plenty of contempt and disobedience. He unwittingly provided his haters with ammunition to attack him when he publicly complained about the low-key reception and treatment at a state function at the Coast. His grievances were genuine but we only saw pettiness in his remarks thus allowing the responsible government officers an opportunity to get away with the public humiliation of a man whom we had been made to believe was equal to the then president.

The presidency is obliged to unite Kenyans and not to create discord. The president took an oath to defend the constitution and protect the people of Kenya; the vows did not include issuing statements to blame his political opponents for insecurity. The statement issued 48 hours after the Mpeketoni attack was rather unfortunate, untimely and misadvised. I never watched his televised address and I don’t know how it went, but reducing matters of state security to community level just because majority of the dead were from the president’s community was a n epic fail. I’m tempted to remind the president of the charges facing him at The Hague in relation to the 2008 PEV. His statement has since drawn mixed reaction from already heavily polarized Kenyans. More blows seem to have landed on RAO, who the president’s men are accusing of being hungry for power. RAO is on record as having denied this, but social media commentators are having a field day unleashing all manner of insults, ultimatums and threats should RAO continue with his political activities.  

It is absolutely normal for an ordinary Kikuyu man to defend the presidency and desire that the status quo prevails, but that doesn’t exempt Njoroge from the high cost of living, poisonous alcoholic drinks and runaway insecurity. As a matter of fact, unless he is politically well-connected, he never benefits directly from a Kikuyu presidency. Similarly, it is absolutely normal for an ordinary Luo man to criticize the government and wish for a fellow son of the lakeside region to occupy State House. However, that will not guarantee more fish from the lake nor will it solve all other socio-economic problems facing the whole of Kenya.  

During these tense political moments, some brainless chaps from the Kikuyu community often come out to deride the Luo community for not undergoing circumcision. Some go ahead to swear that no uncircumcised man will ever rule Kenya. I have never understood the obsession with circumcision (or lack of it) and its relationship with the presidency, but I know that the ability to lead is not installed in your penis. Luos must also not use the words “thief”, “money” and “Kikuyu” in one sentence. Theft is not an exclusive monopoly of one community.  

I know land is a thorny issue and the history of questionable land acquisitions in Kenya has never been decisively dealt with despite public calls for the implementation of various reports like the Ndung’u Report and the TJRC report. Kenyans from economically viable parts of the country are now living as squatters in what was once their own land due to failure and or unwillingness by the state to effectively deal with nation’s Achilles’ heel.  

To the Luo community, you are the fourth largest community in Kenya but the best in many things, like football, music, flamboyant lifestyles and many more. Use them to deal with the frustrations of life. You run on a unique operating system that cannot be allowed to collapse. The time is coming when omena will be a routine feature in the State House menu, but that will only happen through constitutionally recognized means otherwise known as elections. Say this after me “Stones were only fashionable when David used one against Goliath in the Bible.”

To the Kikuyu community, you have the power; use it gracefully, responsibly and for the benefit, stability and development of the entire country. Do not abuse your power (including huge population and economic advantage) to lock other communities out of leadership positions.  The Kikuyu community has often attracted plenty of mistrust and disapproval because of the arrogance of some of their leading lights towards other Kenyan communities. Do not rely on criminal gangs to further your business and political interests.

The presidency is not a preserve of one particular community…  UK was granted an opportunity to correct the wrongs that his late father has been accused of. As he does that, cheered on by tribal bigots, other Kenyans should be allowed to express their concerns and feelings freely without being accused of attempting to destabilize the government. Kenya is a democracy and freedom of expression is entrenched in our constitution. But we must use acceptable language devoid of tribal insinuations and be ready to bear the consequences of our utterances. The police and judiciary must also demonstrate their independence and objectivity by dealing firmly and decisively with any leader who incites Kenyans through inflammatory statements.

Lastly, it appears like our once famed Intelligence Service is no longer providing credible security-related information to other security organs as required. The officers at the NIS are busy profiling politicians and tapping conversations of ordinary Kenyans in entertainment spots instead of infiltrating and dismantling organized gangs like Al Shabaab, Mungiki, MRC and other real enemies of the people of Kenya. Even with its heavy funding, the outfit cannot gather information that can be used to bring the poaching menace to a stop, I wonder if I’m expecting too much from them to tackle terrorism and other forms of organized crime. And by the way we are sick and tired of NIS playing their usual card “… we had prior intelligence reports and passed them on to the police blah blah blah…” We are witnessing systemic failure that should not be condoned at the expense of the lives of innocent Kenyans. Inaction by the president is like issuing a congratulatory letter to our security chiefs, written with the blood of those who died at Westgate, Mpeketoni, Gikomba, Garissa, Likoni and many other places where militants and armed criminals continue exploiting our exposed underbelly almost at will.

Dear Kipruto, Ekai, Njoroge, Yusuf, Anyango et al, I work in a conflict-affected country and wouldn’t want such a beautiful country like ours to disintegrate. 

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For Every Woman …. and Every Man

By Nancy R. Smith

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong,

There is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

 

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb,

There is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”

 

For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female”

There is a man who is denied the right to weep and be gentle.

 

For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children,

There is a man who is denied the full pleasure of parenthood.

 

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment and equal pay,

There is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

 

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile,

There is a man who was not taught the satisfaction of cooking.

 

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation,

There is a man who finds that the way to freedom has been made a little easier.

 

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Exit the British, enter the brutish

The month of December is significant to all Kenyans, not because of the Christmas festivities but the fact that it’s also the month when we gained independence and since the beginning of this year, the country has been abuzz with talks of #Kenya@50 celebrations which have been received by mixed reactions amongst the wananchi.

Like most other countries in Africa that were once under the yoke of colonialism, native Kenyans used inferior weapons and tactics to fight against the better armed and trained white settlers who had declared Kenya as a colony, making Kenyans to become subjects of the Queen.

The white settlers had traversed the country, fraudulently and forcefully acquiring obscene chunks of fertile land. They embarked in large scale plantation farming. Natives on the other hand, were driven to so-called “reserves” and soon became labourers in what was once their own land.

The whites went proceeded to “discover” places hitherto unknown to them, never mind the fact that Africans were already living in those places. Many places had their names changed to make them easier for the British tongues.

Soon the clamour for self-rule gained momentum and the white rulers were eventually replaced by indigenous Kenyans. Note that prior to the arrival of the British there was no common leader in Kenya. All the different tribes had their own leadership structures in the name of tribal chiefs. As such, no Kenyan or black man for that matter had the experience to lead 42 consolidated tribes. Ideally, Kenya didn’t even exist because it’s the Europeans who demarcated Africa, creating the 54 countries currently making up the continent.

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Map of Kenya

We were so keen and united to kick out colonialists and we soon replaced them with Kenya’s own sons and daughters. Our first indigenous government soon identified 3 enemies to be tackled in order to make Kenya a successful country. The enemies were “Disease”; “Ignorance” and “Poverty” not in any particular order. 

Instead of combining efforts to eradicate the 3 enemies, senior officials in the government failed to agree ideologically. Some were obviously and rightly so, unhappy with the zeal with which Mzee and his cronies were eradicating their individual poverty. By the time he died in 1978, many Kenyans had not seen any single improvement in their lives over the 15 years of Kenyatta’s leadership.

In fact most Kenyans were relegated to tiny plots of the remaining arable land to practice subsistence farming while Mzee and his cronies took had the plantations and ranches under their names.

When Moi took over, he and his cronies also did exactly what his predecessor did. Moi had pledged to “fuata nyayo” (follow the footsteps) and he almost outdid Mzee Kenyatta during his 24 years of reign that were marked with tribalism appointments, corruption, political assassinations and impunity just like Kenyatta’s.

Kibaki, who had served in both Kenyatta and Moi’s regimes, became president and ruled for 10 years, but despite all the goodwill from Kenyans, he too failed miserably to end corruption and impunity in Kenya. And I must add that he was used by his former boss to divide Matiba’s votes in 1992 general elections.

But as we mark #Kenya@50 our country is more synonymous with insecurity, skewed development and vices like corruption, scandals, Post-Election Violence, political intolerance, unresolved murders, extrajudicial killings, broken promises, poverty, suffering, broken infrastructure…. the list is endless.

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The past 3 presidents of Kenya and the current president on the right

Most of our leaders are directors and / or beneficiaries of an ogre called “Corruption Inc.” which also has a sister company called “Impunity Inc.” The two are joined like Siamese twins and have made it impossible for the wananchi to enjoy the fruits of their independence. Instead, they have ensured that Kenyans pay more taxes and get nothing in return. We can’t take them to court because they will use their resources and influence to scuttle the process. Furthermore, corruption has been embedded in our judiciary for a long time now, even Kiraitu Murungi’s “radical surgery” never helped to purge the judiciary.

Why is it that #Kenya@50 has more people living in slums in urban areas, where there are no basic services?

Why does #Kenya@50 have such glaring differences in terms of infrastructural development? When will development projects reach Northern Kenya, Nyanza, Western, Eastern and Coast regions? Aren’t they also parts of Kenya? Why would some favoured parts of Kenya@50 have state-of-the-art roads, while the rest of the country has to do with state-of-the-past roads?

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Compare this….

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… with this

We are now being told that proceeds from the Turkana Oil will be used to develop the entire country because #WeAreOne. Fair enough, but why were the proceeds from Tea and Coffee not used in a similar manner? What about proceeds from tourism? Turkana and the entire North have been marginalised for decades now, no wonder people from Northern and North Eastern always talk of 2 countries in one. Other areas like Nyanza, Western and parts of the Coast have not seen any serious attempts by previous and present governments to improve their local economies or infrastructure.

I dare say that #Kenya@50 is sicker than it was half a century ago. Because of rampant corruption, we have not invested in our healthcare system at all. Many Kenyans cannot afford proper healthcare in their own country. We have failed to remunerate our health workers competitively and as a result our doctors and nurses are leaving the country in pursuit of greener pastures abroad. Of course quacks have been quick in filling gap, exposing Kenyans to even greater risks. It’s a fact that our public health facilities have all been rundown completely, including Kenyatta National Hospital that apparently attained ISO Certification last year. We have failed to equip our hospitals; we have even failed to make essential drugs available at health facilities across the country.

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A public hospital in Kenya – This is where you go if you become sick in Kenya

What has #Kenya@50 done to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our law enforcement agencies? Poor pay, demoralizing living and working conditions, favouritism during promotions and many others. The result? Westgate, road carnage, extrajudicial killings and so on.

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Police corner a suspect during riots in Nairobi

We removed the British and replaced them with the brutish. That is the sad reality of #Kenya@50

But is there anything for #Kenya@50 to be proud of? Of course yes; we passed a new constitution and held contentious elections under the new political dispensation. We are expanding #JKIA to increase passenger capacity and hopefully attain US Class “A” status. We revolutionized money transfer via M-Pesa, we are constructing a mega port in Lamu, we discovered oil and a large aquifer in Turkana, our athletes have been bringing us glory, and our very own Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. We also gave America its first black president!

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An artist’s impression of the proposed JKIA Greenfields’ terminal.

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Goodbye ICC!

Over the last couple of weeks and perhaps months, the media has consistently reported the quest by a section of Kenyan lawmakers to have Kenya pull out of the 1998 Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to which Kenya is a signatory among 122 other nations.

For those not familiar with its background, The Rome Statute only came into force in 2002 and established 4 core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so themselves.

The Kenyan 10th Parliament unwittingly shot down a government bill that sought to establish a local tribunal to hear cases related to the 2008 Post-Election Violence. This then meant only one thing – that despite having spent a tidy sum of money on the Justice Philip Waki Commission which investigated the cases, we were now unable and / or unwilling to prosecute the individuals named by the Waki commission. This left the chief negotiator Kofi Annan with no other option but to refer the case to the ICC for further investigations and prosecution of individuals that bore the greatest responsibility over the violence.

Fast forward to 2013 and Kenyan politicians, a majority of whom subscribe to sycophancy as opposed to ideology are busy traversing the country telling the public that the cases facing the President and his deputy were an affront to Kenya’s sovereignty and an insult to our ability to manage internal affairs.

Our politicians have thus proceeded to expose our dalliance with the ugly animal with an ugly name called “impunity” and our disregard to the rule of law. Kenya, together with its accomplices in the African Union (AU) is now threatening to withdraw from the Rome Statute ICC to “teach the western masters a lesson.”

Suddenly, our beloved politicians together with their allies across Africa are seeing the ICC as neo-colonialism. Their unenviable limited exposure to international affairs has reinforced their mistaken belief that the court is only interested in punishing Africans!

The AU has come out strongly to refer to the west as imperialists. In fact following the recent unsuccessful attempt by Kenya to convince the United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC) to defer the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta, an AU meeting is scheduled to take place in the next few weeks, perhaps to review Africa’s position on the ICC. The push for deferral is highly suspect!

Many Kenyans will vividly remember that during the run up to the last general elections, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta did state that the charges facing him at the ICC were a personal problem but now that he has ascended to power, he has realized that the matter is not a walk in the park as he initially thought and has since dispatched public officers to paint the court in the worst light possible. For a person of his intelligence and the supposedly good brains at his disposal in the name of advisors, I’m beginning to wonder if there is something that he is personally afraid of.

In absolute contrast, his deputy William Ruto has been faithfully attending court, occasionally being granted an opportunity to fly back home to carry out important state functions. He is not a stranger to courtrooms in Kenya having been charged with corruption-related and land grabbing allegations before but these ended up in fines and non-custodial sentence. But his trial at the court is quickly exposing the weak fiber with which he and his boss are connected. Evidence adduced in court so far suggests that it is the president’s men and women who fixed Mr. Ruto. This is particularly significance in the sense that Ruto fell out with Raila Odinga following widespread allegations that the latter fixed the former in a political war that was probably fabricated by the National Intelligence Service and propagated by the Kenyan media.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hate to disappoint you, but I too have suddenly seen the light; African nations should pull out from this yoke of bondage that has been forced on us by the west. What justice are they talking about? We want to retain our right to kill, maim, torture, rape and displace our political opponents. After all, the law of the jungle was meant for us and it has always served us perfectly well!

I’m fully aware that the Kenyan case was referred to the ICC by Koffi Annan, who is an African and are being prosecuted by an African lady called Fatou Bensouda. I know for a fact that the bench also has a Nigerian judge, but as an African I still believe that the cases against the Kenyan duo are a creation of the west. I therefore call upon Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr. William Ruto to fire their non-African defense counsels and replace them with Kenyan lawyers.

Our leading lights are still innocent and I hope they will be acquitted by the court. But should they be convicted then I kindly request the court to allow them serve their jail term at any of our own magnificent correctional facilities like Kamiti Maximum Prison, Shimo La Tewa at the coast, or Naivasha Maximum because we don’t want them locked up in a foreign land.

In the meantime, as the cases progress, African countries will demand that all our best brains that have fled the continent in search of greener pastures return home immediately. Our children who are studying in prestigious universities all over the world will also return home to complete their studies and graduate from Zetech College, Kampala International University and similar institutions. We shall also discontinue the British Education curriculum being offered at Brookhouse, Braeburn etc. They will all administer the 8-4-4 system of education. Aren’t we supposed to be one?

Our security forces will also undergo an Africanization process. We are going to embark on a massive disarmament exercise to withdraw all the sophisticated arms at the hands of our security forces, including uniforms and communication equipment. We shall instead arm them with crude weapons like crowbars, sticks, machetes and stones. For uniforms, they will simply don animal skins around their waists.

The gallant sons and daughters of Africa who grace the international sporting arena will no longer participate in western events. The likes of Drogba, Kemboi, Semenya and Eto’o will henceforth only compete in village sporting tournaments on African soil, where they stand high chances of winning goats and heifers.

With all these measures in place, we are confident as Africans that we shall have done enough to stop our poor brothers and sisters affected by war, poverty, joblessness, disease, corruption and bad governance in our countries from rushing to their deaths across the deep and rough waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

For your information and future reference, our pursuit for western education, lifestyle as well as western spouses is just fine with us. However, trying to make us stop the culture of impunity and start obeying the rule of law is a serious breach of our sovereignty!

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