Why protesters should spare all roads and other public facilities

Sunday November 12 2017

A bonfire lit by protesters on a road at

A bonfire lit by protesters on a road at Kawangware 56 in Nairobi on October 26, 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOHN MOSONIK
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The protests that followed the October 26 repeat presidential election in some areas left a heavy toll on the country.

Human life, limb and property lay wasted and it may be some time before the full extent of the damage is quantified.

Often lost in this narrative is another unfortunate victim that not much thought is given to: the road network.

During protests by youths, roads bear the brunt of the destruction in several ways. One common trigger for road destruction is the fires they light.

VANDALISM

These melt the asphalt concrete used in road construction, compromising the evenness and general aesthetics.

There is also widespread vandalism of road furniture. There were the rather unsettling events of bridge barriers being cut and welded to block roads and signage removed.

There is also disruption of activities such as obstruction through erection of illegal bumps and encroachment of reserves. Equally costly to the overall economic ecosystem are the non-physical risks to roads.

Illegal barricading of roads, which has become a standard feature of most public protests, has serious and potentially debilitating economic ramifications throughout the region, particularly for our landlocked neighbours in the Great Lakes region.

Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and even eastern parts of Democratic Republic of Congo that rely on Kenyan infrastructure, as part of the Northern Corridor for the movement of their exports and imports.

Initial estimates put the financial toll on roads occasioned by the protests at Sh130 million.

This money will have to be drawn from the sector allocation for the financial year 2017/2018 in order to ensure damaged roads are fully repaired.
FIRES
While they may not feel it directly, it is the citizens, including the protesters, who will foot the bill at the end of the day.

According to the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA), road damage caused by fires and vandalism was rampant in Kilifi, Kwale, Malindi, Lamu, Mombasa, Mwatate and Voi.

Kenya Urban Roads Authority recorded similar destruction in Nairobi’s Kibra, Dagoretti and Mathare.

The Kenya National Highways Authority puts down most of the damage to fires, barricades, illegal bumps and vandalism. An audit carried out by the roads agencies points to a catalogue of roads that were directly affected as a result of the protests, mostly in the western Kenya.

They include the Kehancha-Suna-Masara, Masara-Muhuru Bay, Mbita-Homa Bay-Katito, Homa Bay-Rongo and Kendu Bay-Kadongo.

Awasi-Chemelil-Nandi Hills, Luanda Kotieno-Owimbi-Bondo-Siaya-Rangala, Osieko-Bondo-Kisian and Masara-Sori-Sindo-Mbita. Kisumu-Kisian-Maseno-Luanda, Kisumu Bypass-Kisumu-Nyamasaria-Awasi, Rongo-Awendo-Migori and Rodi Kopany-Ndhiwa-Karungu were also not spared.

BUDGET

The Department of Infrastructure has been allocated some Sh482 billion over the 2014-17 period. But the demand for funds by far outweighs the budget.

This explains the pursuit of alternative infrastructure funding such as annuity, building of low seal roads and deployment of a performance- based contracting in road maintenance.

There is a need for greater public education on the importance of quality infrastructure. Besides being an enabler for the economy, the infrastructure sub-sector, indirectly contributed 4.5 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015. It is a great tool in poverty reduction and the creation of jobs.

The other intervention is giving stiffer penalties for offenders. This will discourage the wanton destruction of infrastructure and installations, encroachment on the right of way and other third-party interference.

There is the Traffic Act Cap 403, which relates to obstruction, destruction of roads and vehicles, and the Kenya Roads Act 2007 that imposes a two-year jail term or Sh100,000 fine, or both.

Mr Mosonik is the Principal Secretary, State Department of Infrastructure