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Under a barrage of stones

Thursday August 20 2009


Some weeks ago, when I was busy thinking about today, I received a call from Dr Alfred Mutua, the senior civil servant who has the right job in the wrong country because he has to put up with inconsequential people and issues that sometimes make him “run out of voice,” like he did the other day on national television.

For a moment, I stopped thinking about today, but immediately after our conversation, I got back to my thoughts which involved numbers. “Is it 260 or is it 261? Does that make it five and did the first one get published on August 20 or 21?” I kept asking myself…

The call was about food — a luxury item that has eluded millions of Kenyans and which is sending Mwai Kibaki and his BFF (Best Friends Forever) Raila Odinga into paroxysms of beggarliness as if they have just discovered famine. But I digress.

No free lunch

Even though there is no such thing as free lunch, Dr Mutua was laying out a luncheon for a bunch of journalists. “Mr Muganda will attend,” I told him, and he said the venue will be Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the building which once housed the Kanu headquarters. This is also the same place at which Martha Karua put many men in their rightful places on the day the then Kivuitu-led ECK’s figures could not add up.

What is Kanu and who is Martha Karua, you may ask? They are so out of circulation, out of the limelight, out of the spotlight, and out of our minds that if they come back, they will probably hold functions to re-launch themselves, or their careers, or whatever is left of them. Again, I digress.

On the L – for luncheon – Day, I made my way to the KICC where I found very many journalists, media personalities and other people — the kinds who attend Dr Mutua’s Thursday afternoon briefings and ask questions which make him “run out of voice.”

“When will it rain and how heavy will it be?” someone asks and Dr Mutua answers. Then another hand shoots up… “My names are so-and-so and I am a freelance with the Tom Mboya Street Late Evening Newspaper and Ujinga FM. What measures have been taken to ensure that there is equitable distribution of rain or that it falls only in areas that are adversely affected by drought?”

Of course Dr Mutua’s answers are outrageous, but do we ever listen to the questions — and ask ourselves where the people who ask them were trained? But I digress.

On the day of the lunch, Dr Mutua told the journalists and the media personalities that he does more things than just answering questions. One of the things he does, he said, is making Nairobi beautiful. So very beautiful, like Dubai you know — the only difference is that our country is not a desert even though drinking water is just a mirage.

Artist’s impression

With the help of a projector and a laptop, Dr Mutua talked us through an artist’s impression of an eight-lane Mombasa Road with an island full of pebbles, all made possible by hard working patriotic young men and women who were recruited under the difficult-to-understand Kazi Kwa Vijana initiative.

Even though I hate to eat and run, I left Dr Mutua fielding questions. I had also asked if it is possible to translate the Highway Code into vernacular so that Kenya’s numerous illiterate drivers can learn the difference between left, right and centre; red, amber and green and rear view mirror and bathroom mirror.

We can have twenty four lanes on Mombasa Road, but traffic jams will not end. Kenya’s illiterate and murderous drivers are not used to order, and do not feel happy if they do not display their stupidity on the roads and cause accidents, after which they park in the middle of the road to wait for traffic police officers.

Dr Mutua’s beautification project has been buried under a barrage of jeers and suddenly people are talking about trees and clean air in Nairobi, a poorly-planned city which does not even have a lung — a forest between the Industrial Area and others — to “purify” the toxic fumes from the factories.

Those shrubs Dr Mutua had uprooted were an eyesore and were wilting under a surfeit of fumes from un-roadworthy vehicles, now that in Kenya any machine with wheels is allowed on the road, no matter how big a pollutant it is.

We drown ourselves in inconsequential issues and skirt around life-threatening ones. Thus, Dr Mutua became the soft target, as if clearing those shrubs was worse than hiving off forests — to pay off personal favours — by leaders who have no legacy after 24 years in power, and who should, if anything, be in jail for the heinous crimes they committed against Kenyans.

Good deeds

We do not value legacy, and anyone who wants to leave any through good deeds becomes an enemy in an instant. We talk politics till people start dying of hunger then we start begging from the same countries we so love to remind about our sovereignty when they talk about our transgressions.

Go ahead and bring the stones Dr Mutua, they could be your legacy, you know. Ours is a country where people resist change and they will always try to take you to the losing side, something that I have resisted for the 261 weeks — exactly five years today — that I have written this column.