We can’t be a hit-and-run country much longer

Tuesday February 9 2016

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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If there is anything that fully demonstrates that Kenyans have completely lost their sense of empathy, it is the bodies that were brought in after his, on that cold morning.

He was coming home from a late night when he was hit by a car. The car kept moving.

He was trying to pull himself off the road, according to his friends, when a truck passed a few seconds later and crushed his spine.

Then he died, there, clutching for a roadside he would never reach.

The truck didn't stop either.

On the morning when they went to identify his body, they found well more than ten other bodies had been brought to the City Mortuary the same day.

So you can see that this is not an unusual story, but it is still sad.

A young man in the prime of his life, dead and buried now because one driver did not stop and take responsibility for his or her mistake.

Hit-and-runs are all too common on our roads, so much so that people do not stop or care anymore.

They put a bad taste in one's mouth – someone killing someone else, ending their life, and not giving a damn. But why don't they stop?

I have spoken to people who have tried to assist victims of hit-and-run incidents, or who have themselves caused a hit-and-run accident.

THE FIRST THOUGHT

For some, the first thought is to flee as soon as the thought of mob justice enters their minds. I can see how. We all remember the story of the man whose Prado was burnt to a cinder on Mbagathi Way.

This fear, they say, makes many drivers power on, leaving trails of blood in their wake and making an angry, distraught crowd even angrier.

I wonder whether any of these drivers call an ambulance at the very least, as they speed away from the scene.

For other people, victims are not assisted fast enough in hospital. There appears to be a rule in Kenya that you must have filed a police report before bringing a hit-and-run victim to hospital, otherwise medical staff will decline to treat him or her.

"I took a lady I hit once," said Mark (not his real name), "and the hospital refused to treat her because I did not have a police report, even after I had admitted it was my fault. By the time I went to the police station and came back, she was dead."

This strange rule obviously has no place in Kenya's legal system. For one, it does not make sense to lose a life because of waiting on a police report. Hospitals that choose to wait on a piece of paper in exchange for a life should not be in business.

THE HOSPITAL BUSINESS

Unfortunately, many hospitals in Kenya seem to work on this premise, and not just for hit-and-run incidents. A hospital is a business, not a place of healing.

Virtually everyone has a story about a friend who was shot, or hurt badly, only for the hospital to refuse to even treat the emergency, or even keep the person alive until they could be transferred because money was not forthcoming.

I suppose hospitals are not charities and cannot accept everyone who comes through their doors, but how about just the ones who are dying?

This business-like, capitalist mindset is killing Kenya, on a much larger scale.

No one cares about anyone else, which is why there is a scandal every day. People in power are raping Kenya systematically, and the Kenyan on the street is also perpetuating this crime.

No one speaks out any more, or stops anything, or helps a stranger on the street in genuine need. We want to get into Parliament to steal even more.

We want positions of power, nominations and candidacy, so that we can lie the year before elections (which is already happening), and then turn our backs on the people we paid 50 shillings for a vote.

Oppression has a trickle-down effect, and all forms of oppression are interlinked. The longer you ignore that body lying on the street, the more likely it becomes that that body will be yours.

There is no guarantee, friend – people will screw you over just as easily as you will them. It's pretty hard to point to your insurance card in your wallet when you have been hit unconscious by an unroadworthy vehicle. Millionaires and paupers both bleed.

What happens now? Do we watch the country fall around us, or do we do something about it, for God's sake?

Call an ambulance. Make some noise. Register to vote. Be an active citizen. Have a conversation. Spark change. But don't sit there and complain about paying a bribe when you know good and well you're the one who started the cycle.

RIP Geoffrey Githaiga. RIP James Quest.

Twitter@:AbigailArunga