It is a sad feeling when one’s investment, however modest, is destroyed. It is sadder if the destruction is commissioned by another person who has been standing by watching as one puts up that kiosk or estate bar.
It is a familiar, and bitter, feeling when a malicious city council employee keeps disrupting that business, inconvenience one’s handful of loyal clients and extorting the investor with the never-ending licensing requirements. There will always be that irritating official who passes by from time to time seeking to reap where they have not sown.
That is why many of us empathise with victims of the ongoing demolitions that have made headlines in this past week. We can easily identify with that pharmacist in Kileleshwa who broke down after losing millions of shillings as government bulldozers brought down the building that housed her chemist.
But there is a silver lining to this cloud of demolitions.
Other than what many agree is the “inhuman” way the Kibra residents were treated during the demolitions, everything else points to greater and happier days ahead for the country.
The Kibra traders and residents are more at peace when they finally see some equality in the way law and order is being applied. Unlike the old “normal” way things have always been done, where the poor are mistreated and abused in the process of implementation of official directives and policies while their better-to-do counterparts are massaged and pampered, the new normal seems to treat every transgressor equally, as it should.
The trend of equal application of the law that the country has witnessed this week cements hope that, finally, the beginning of the end to big man syndrome and its attendant impunity is here. The fear of God is finally being instilled among those with the tendency to bend the law in pursuit of personal greed, how else would one describe the urge to block a natural river just to get rent!
During one of the demolition sessions, a State agency official was quoted recounting how he had had to repulse efforts by owners of the offending structures to bribe him and have him spare their property. The motivation among public office bearers to return money sent to them as tokens is indeed rare.
That in the ongoing crackdown, the authorities have vowed to demolish more than 4,000 buildings erected on riparian land and road reserves in Nairobi alone, is reason enough for those who had lost hope of good governance to restore it.
But there is more. We have heard owners of structures affected argue that they have all the requisite licenses and paperwork for the construction. Some have blamed the concerned agencies for having stood by and watched as the construction went on only to turn up and take the action after billions have been invested. That may be true and reasonable, but it does not make it right.
We cannot defend a wrong on the basis that we did not stop it when it was being committed. There is credible information that, other than getting rid of the illegal structures, the multi-agency team the President has put in place to restore public order will be following up public officers implicated, to have them personally account for the acts of commission and omission that allowed the buildings in the first place.
Speaking of crosses, it is encouraging to note that the war on corruption has been revived after a seeming lull, especially in public, and hitherto untouchables are being made to answer for their alleged impropriety while in office. The country hopes that soon, we will see those responsible for the illegal Mau Forest land allocation, the proverbial big fish, made to answer and return the titles they hold against public good.
Mr Mugwang’a is a communications consultant. [email protected] @mykeysoul