Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Terrorism in Kenya

So, ever since this WestGate incident, talk of terrorism has been rife in Kenya. At some point people were scared to go out congregating in the big malls, which they perceived were perfect targets for the denizens of depraved terrorists lurking about. My take on this whole thing is simple: I can’t really be afraid because anything is a perfect target right now.

Let me explain: as a result of the lax security, downtrodden and unmotivated police force, misplaced priorities and all that corruption that was allowed to fester for so long, I am no safer if I steer clear of busy malls, places of religion, etc. Someone could toss a grenade into a matatu as I’m making my way through the city or plan to bomb any number of innocuous seeming areas. There is just no way in this world to be that prepared if the basic systems and structures in place simply do not work. (“Nyumba Kumi” and all other initiatives included) 
But as my sister and I were having this terrorism conversation the other day, the goal posts for what constitutes a terrorist were actually shifted. Conservative estimate (or otherwise), the death toll from 4 days of violence at the WestGate Mall stands at 67 fatalities. Some of the death tolls from the Passenger Service Vehicles (PSVs) that have been making the news lately sometimes claim as many as 50 lives almost in one fell swoop. The undoubted superior killer, the assassin-with-the-most is definitely ROAD CARNAGE.

The biggest contributor to road carnage is the myriad of PSVs which ply our busy roads each and every day, each of them a law unto themselves. Perhaps, it could be that we’ve gotten so used to their bad behavior such that each time they undoubtedly go up in extreme blazes of glory no one invents any precious ‘Hash Tags’ in their memory, and members of the public are not called upon to donate blood. It’s pretty much just business as usual.

Or maybe it’s felt that Public Transport is just something that affects the masses, mostly those too poor and unfortunate to not be able to avoid their own decent means of transport. You should have heard the uproar when our transport minister tried to make it harder for any Tom, Dick & Harry to just get into the task of Public Transport service provision. Potential one-matatu-owners were livid as to how this man (who obviously no longer uses public transport) would attempt to step on their gravy train.

Fact of the matter is that we’re now probably at the point where the mass perennial neglect of public institutions and amenities has begun to affect both the Rich and the Poor. As the roads get busier, and many of our roads remain as narrow as ever, unmarked and poorly maintained, things can only get worse.

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve gone back to driving school to learn how to drive a “Stick-Shift” (manual transmission). Sure enough, it isn’t a piece of cake, but just a few minutes behind the wheel is enough to make you acutely aware of just how many hazards our roads contain. From the absent-minded pedestrian crossing the road willy-nilly, to the poorly maintained cars whose brake-lights don’t work, to the careless drivers ploughing through oblivious as to who has the right-of-way, and finally we have vehicles of all kinds, especially PSVs hogging your lane as they race towards you in a two-way traffic situation. But of all these hazards, the PSVs give me the most jitters; my foot practically hugs the brake pedal whenever these guys are about, ready-for-whatever.

It is not my intention to demean the pain of those people who’ve suffered through the many incidents of terrorism that have been perpetrated (seen or unseen), but perhaps to remind people that the biggest terror threat is closer at hand than we may believe. These vehicles are massive missiles which have turned out on many occasions to be Widow-makers, family killers and have riddled people with severely debilitating injuries. There isn’t enough compensation in this world that can make up for a fractured spine or broken bones or the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) faced by victims of road carnage as they relive these tragic events in their mind.

And since there is no cure, let’s make with the ardent prevention. It is not anybody’s God-given right to ferry people around en masse; that right has to be EARNED and maintained by not betraying the public who place their TRUST and very lives in your hands. Let’s go ahead and straight brand these careless drivers as the TERRORISTS that they actually are, and perform the very necessary SURGERY that it will take to have them shape up or ship out.

God Bless and have a great day!

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