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Bulldozers would serve better if helping flatten Covid-19 curve

Friday May 22 2020

ruai evictions

Houses been built on land belonging to Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company in Ruai, Nairobi, are demolished on May 16, 2020. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GABRIEL OGUDA
By GABRIEL OGUDA
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For the fourth week running, residents of Ruai have been sleeping on one eye after government bulldozers visited them again this week at ungodly hours, causing them to wonder how many more false alarms they have to be subjected to before the actual return of the Messiah.

In what is now turning into a coordinated onslaught against poor people, the bulldozers arrived at the site of what is said to be the proposed sewerage plant for the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company, with armed police standing guard, proceeding to knock down houses without invitation.

Kenyans are busy fighting hunger and poverty the coronavirus has left us with, and we have no energy left to fight a seven-ton truck that neither speaks Kenya’s two official languages nor understands the sign language of dialogue.

There are many acts of charity government bulldozers can do to offer a helping hand during this pandemic. Demolishing poor people’s homes isn’t one of them.

They could have, for example, knocked on the doors of the IEBC to alert them of the substandard 2017 election report before Kenyans beat them to it.

Drivers of heavy machinery are not listed as essential service providers. Instead of the police whipping them back into their homes like they did to others breaking curfew laws, they are given armed protection.

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If the government intended to break their own curfew orders to allow non-essential service providers to bring pain and misery to suffering Kenyans, then they could have as well approved the pending request by the association of night-runners to help the police patrol at night.

The only nuisance night-runners pose is scaring people into staying indoors, after all.

POLICE MISUSED

The Kenya Police shouldn’t allow themselves to be sent to accompany bulldozers to supervise these night demolitions, because that is not what Kenyans meant when they said they needed government protection from the virus.

Instead of the police visiting squatters to donate food rations and personal protective equipment during this pandemic, they have chosen to donate misery and violence in truckloads, and they still wonder why Kenyans run to witchdoctors instead of police stations whenever they need help solving criminal cases.

The Ruai evictions should serve as a soul-searching moment for the Kenya Police, who should ask themselves if they are still interested in serving Kenyans with humanity, or with hot soup.

Accompanying government bulldozers to destroy poor people’s homes dead in the night might not look like a big deal to them, but the images of crying children sitting on piles of rubble as police stand guard with their guns portrays a police service that is okay with protecting impunity.

If the police wanted Kenyans to help them keep guard at night, they should have said so instead of demolishing their homes and forcing them to keep awake in the cold.

This is not the time to win the argument over who holds the legitimate title to the Ruai sewerage land. The world is still inside the belly of a global pandemic, and the government should be sending bulldozers out there to flatten the curve, not people’s homes.

TITLE DEEDS

The government cannot be urging Kenyans to stay home to help stop the coronavirus spread while at the same time evicting poor people and leaving them without social distancing or face masks.

If our policymakers wanted irony to be the cornerstone of government service delivery, then the bulk of the budget allocated to the Ministry of Education should be going towards hiring literature teachers, instead of reforming the curriculum.

There is a need for the government to come clean on the authenticity of ownership papers they issue as official titles to landowners, only for them to be revoked at a later date and without notice.

For someone to build a stone house capable of keeping a bulldozer busy for hours, they must have gone through all the rigorous checks required before receiving assurances that their land ownership status is good in the eyes of the government, and that their investment is safe from floodwaters and government bulldozers.

For the government to turn around and declare their land ownership papers fake is to revive the old-age discussion on whether government documents should be more trustworthy than a politician’s word.

If the government is in the business of issuing fake title deeds, then we might as well put it in the law so that dealers of contraband goods may finally get to know their real business rivals.

The author comments on topical issues; [email protected]

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