Kenya, increasingly, resembles a pilfered hotel room

Monday December 26 2016

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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Nothing mars a trip more than getting to a splendid holiday destination and then getting robbed.

This is what happened when I and a few other bloggers made our way down to Rusinga Island for the Rusinga Festival. The Rusinga Festival has been going on for the last five years and I have attended it for the last two.

It’s a showcase for Suba culture. Much of the time, the Suba are directly associated with the Luo even if they are not Luo, if you remember your primary school history correctly.

The Suba have their own language and way of life that has nothing to do with their neighbours, and the festival seeks to remind people of that.

We were all staying at the Blue Ridge Hotel. The night before the festival is when several of these professionals, including myself, checked in, anticipating a day ahead on the beautiful island.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. One of my colleagues sounded the alarm when she got back to her hotel room after dinner – her laptop and phone were gone.

On the same floor, several people had also lost their electronics. The thieves seemed to have taken mostly laptops, cameras and money – easily over one million shillings' worth.

POLICE ARRIVED

What made the whole fiasco even more unfortunate was the bungling in the handling of the crime. The hotel took quite a while to call the police, did not offer much assistance and generally acted lackadaisical at the mention of a search through the hotel.

Of course, we were enraged beyond belief. How had the thieves passed the reception into the rooms without being stopped? How is it that we were robbed, and then the doors locked back into place?

How did the thieves leave once more, carrying what must have been bags and bags of equipment, again without anyone noticing?

The police arrived and conducted their own investigations, and now we wait for the verdict. The holiday is over and the hotel left a rather sour taste in our mouths. It is quite upsetting that the service industry in our country has reached a level where thieving in a hotel is not treated as an emergency.

Is it that we do not care what service we get because we do not see a point in asking for more?

As loud as Kenyans are, away from the exquisitely witty commentary on Twitter we don’t actually complain about much. We sit and take a lot from everything and everyone around us. My trip to Rusinga showed me that in many ways, starting from the matatu I had to take from Kisumu to Luanda K’Otieno to catch the ferry to Mbita, then Rusinga.

I enjoy driving to Rusinga more, but this time I wanted to catch the ferry because I have never been on this particular one and I am always up for a little adventure.

WAVING AT THE WIND

The matatu that I was in was packed full and I was surprised they could fit more than 20 people in it. To my naïve mind, the days of overcrowding had passed with Michuki, but I was promptly disabused of that notion.

I was far too close to a lot of people for my comfort, so much so that I felt our bodily fluids were mixing. Some people hung out of the matatu. Others hung, balancing precariously, across the back of the front seat with their rear ends basically waving at the wind. Obviously, the door was not closing.

Did I say anything? No. The balance and weight of the matatu put me in mortal danger, especially at the speeds we were driving, but I did not once protest, even when my life was at stake.

At the hotel, after the incident, we were up for about three hours trying to reach a solution, but even then, at some point, the spirit left us. Did we complain to the police about how long they took? No. I am more scared of the police than I care to admit, and that is a problem in itself.

ASKING FOR MORE

This lack of demand for better service and better dues trickles upwards. When we are robbed, as a nation, repeatedly, collectively by government officials, in the same fashion, we fail to protest loud enough for anything to change.

I attended the Take Back Kenya protest earlier in December and surprisingly, there were less than 50 people in attendance. Perhaps that is not quite so surprising; we are scared of what happens when we protest.

We are too scared to demand what we know is owed us, even when we are within our rights. This is because of the culture of acceptance we have insisted on owning, a deeply disturbing mantra of accepting and moving on. We think they have the keys.

It is not that there are only 50 people dissatisfied with how things are run but that we are scared of what will happen when we raise our voices, teargas being the least of our worries. We think we cannot make a difference by speaking out.

We cannot go on like this as a nation. We must start asking for more because when we fail to do so for ourselves and those coming after us, all that will be left of our country is a pilfered room.

The people, who are being robbed blind into debts that will take generations to pay, must hold the authorities accountable because we have the power to. When you pay for a service, you must receive what you pay for.

Twitter: @AbigailArunga