Mind the bomb in the plastic bag

What’s in a black plastic bag and has wires sticking out of it?
In Nairobi today, that is probably a crude bomb.
The Bomb Disposal Unit will tell you that the best thing to do is step away and inform the authorities, who I assume will then ask the BDU and their little robot to come over and have a look.
What if you’re in the traffic jam at Pangani on the second lane on the highway part of Thika Road?
Close the novel and mark the page with the blue and white Prestige Bookshop bookmark, feel the thing with your shoe and look discreetly at the contents of the plastic bag.
That’s what I did a few mornings ago in a matatu I was in, and the Bomb Disposal Unit or my friends in the KDF would certainly not be happy with what I did because that is honestly a very foolish thing to do, isn’t it?
It certainly is and I tell this little story as a bad lead-on to the point I want to make; that if we are to deter terrorists, then we certainly must take it upon ourselves to do the job, not leave it to the trained people alone.
When the crews of the matatus that were bombed on Thika Road were dragged to the courts and slapped with bonds of Sh5 million, the sages on Twitter and Facebook put up their scrawny arms and protested. The Matatu Welfare Association came in with the assertion that the job of the conductors and touts is to collect fare, not check their passengers for things that go boom. Dickson Mbugua’s crippled argument was that the matatu crews have no idea what a bomb looks like and would therefore not know it if they saw it.
So that if say, the makanga on the matatu I take home saw a package with loose wires poking out, he would think the bearer is a mechanic or a radio repair man taking it home or back to his customer.
That is how bullshit sounds and that is why I was for the idea that the crew of the Jeean Bus and the Mwiki Sacco Bus that were bombed should have been allowed to spend a little time at Industrial Area and see how bedbugs and lice look like and practice the classic art of crushing a hardened louse between the thumbs.
Whenever you board a public service vehicle, you literally place your life in the hands and feet of the matatu crew.
You pay them, enter a contract for your safe transportation and then hope that they will get you to your destination in one piece. That they will not allow the vehicle to roll, that they are sober and sane enough to avoid crashing into a tree or another vehicle and they will stop it so you can alight and go wherever you’re going safely.
Drivers who cause accidents end up in court because they endanger or even end lives. Similarly, drivers who carry exploding devices in their vehicles should be made to bear a similar responsibility. They should be made to ensure they don’t have harmful things on board.
When you think about it, what do you carry in a bag that is so private that you wouldn’t mind a total stranger seeing? Pads and tampons? Nobody will open your letters or look through your wallet. If the metal detector keeps beeping, kindly show the man what it is you have in your luggage.
Of course this won’t stop the fellow who really wants to blow us up from doing so, but it might deter him. To this I would add a constant awareness of our surroundings. Had the bombed buses been operating in a more organised way, and we all know how crazy the Paradisos, Jeeans, Maranathas and Tuxedos on the Guthurai 45 route are, they surely wouldn’t have been sitting ducks that Sunday.
As Scott Gration said at the National Prayer Breakfast, “a safer and more secure nation is everyone’s responsibility, not just the job of the security forces.”
That’s from a man who has been in the security forces and was in the Pentagon when the third hijacked 9/11 airliner slammed into the side of that fort. His fighter jet also once stopped 100 feet short of slamming into the ground. He’s also a white American and we seem wired to pay more attention when a lighter-skinned foreigner dispenses advice.
Also, we know very well how our police operate.


Sometimes we all despise these MCAs

Something interesting and noteworthy happened at Alliance High School on May 18. Just before President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a little speech, he asked Kiambu Governor William Kabogo to correct an error of omission he appeared to have made when he spoke earlier.

This, said the President, was necessary if he was to avoid his impeachment by the County Assembly of Kiambu the following morning- essentially to avoid the sort of thing that has ended with Martin Nyaga Wambora spending more time with his lawyers and in the corridors of the High Court seeking orders, this second time in vain, to stop his impeachment.

This Wednesday morning, the relatively unknown Governor of Kericho, Prof Paul Chepkwony will start the process Wambora went through- telling a committee of the Senate about himself, his supposed innocence and why he thinks the Senators should save his life. He’ll be hoping he is not made to look evil, corrupt and politically inept and arrogant in the manner of his embarrassed colleague from Embu.

Back to Alliance, where Kabogo was quick to the microphone and then, repeating that he was only doing it to avoid being impeached, he introduced the Speaker of the County Assembly, the County Executive Committee member in charge of Education and several County Assembly members who had followed the President’s entourage to that famous school. That was all he did before the President continued with his speech but the essence of his actions might have been lost to many.

Kabogo and to a certain extent Uhuru were engaging in good old kinyururi. Kinyururi, pronounced kay-nyaw-raw-reeis  a Kikuyu expression for sarcasm, although sarcasm is not really the word for that kind of thing. Kinyururi is what makes people use puckered lips and a twisted mouth to point at someone. Only Kyuks do that and I have had a hell of a good time explaining to some friends how this works and what enables it to work. Kinyururi enables you to spit when you meet your enemy on the street.

One resorts to kinyururi when they have no other weapon available to make the subject aware of their indifference. It is also the kind of thing you cannot prove, much the same way as arrogance.

Kabogo’s kinyururi, for me, goes to illustrate the disdain with which some governors hold the County Assembly Members, known as MCAs, they are accountable to.

People like Kabogo have had to hold closed-door meetings with their MCAs to quiet them down. After that came the many trips to Israel to see the many places where Jesus visited.
It is the same story across many counties, and we could tell at the Governors’ Summit in Naivasha earlier this year that many of the county bosses are unhappy with their MCAs.

I know that Peter Kaluma has a problem with one he met, a Leader of Minority in the assembly he sits in who also happens to be the head of the curiously named Committee on Delegation Legislation. He is a Form Two graduate and would refer you to someone else or another county if you asked who the head of the Committee on Delegated Legislation is. Yet he has a driver and a big car and is the person to look for when the county government gazettes its high rates.

What Kaluma, Kabogo and Kenyatta are telling us is simple and fairly straightforward- we need a higher standard for our MCAs and we can start by demanding that they have a little more education when they come seeking votes. Otherwise, they’ll remain a pain in the bottom and all we shall have for them is pointless kinyururi.

The Anglo Leasing conundrum (that was)

Among the pile of documents any reporter writing about the current Anglo Leasing story, which is really not about Anglo Leasing but why let details get in the way of a good story, is the report of the Public Accounts Committee signed at the end with the seemingly endless signature that reads something like uuuuuuKenyatta.
George Kegoro says it was a wonderful report and because it is not often that George Kegoro attributes anything good to UK, let us believe him. It lays some good ground for the recommendation at the end that the contracts whose execution hadn’t started should be terminated and those that had started being executed ought to examined afresh to verify whether they were worth what Kenya would pay for them. In the meantime, it said, Kenya ought not to pay these chaps one more cent.
It was then that the well-documented arbitration and then litigation process started. These processes went from dusty Nairobi to cold and rainy London.
It is said, and I have seen no evidence to support this thesis, that as Kibaki was building Thika Road and the bypasses we like him so much for, some of these Anglo Leasing-type contractors were paid some Sh5.3 bn.
Kibaki is also well remembered because when his reluctanctly-procured coalition partner was recovering after emergency head surgery, he hit the road, gave journalists interviews (not the cliche’d wide-ranging ones but a smart-bomb one where he spoke about only the important stuff) and then urged us all to approve this thing, the Constitution…and thus created the Controller of Budget. This fastidious, straight-shooting, no-nonsense woman stopped Treasury quietly paying off First Mercantile Securities Corporation and Univeral Satspace, the two Anglo Leasing-type companies that come at us waving London Court Judgements.
Why do the cool and calm Henry Rotich and the quiet but firm Dr Kamau Thugge insist that it is important that we pay off these two buggers?
Kenya needs to sell a sovereign bond at the Irish Stock Exchange, where some Guinness-drinking rich guys will buy the bond and thus give us some $2 billion. We’ll take that, pay off some local banks some $600 million that they lent us, and use the rest to build roads, airports, hospitals and obviously pay off striking civil servant and the florists who supply bouquets to government offices.
What happens if we don’t pay seemed more dire. Our overburdened government would have to borrow from local banks to finance the gap in its Budget for next year, which means that the banks would drop that habit of looking up their clients’ phone numbers and their account flows and then calling to offer cheap loans.

Economists say that when banks start offering cheap loans, they are effectively shoving money down our pockets and making everybody rich, which means there is more money around and the economy can grow.

How big is Evans Kidero’s headache right now?

He is part of a rebel group that seeks to tornado its way out of ODM and is therefore no longer seen to enjoy the support of that party’s owners and their cheerleaders.
He has not done much to dispel that notion.
Holding publicised harambees in his party leader’s political backyard hasn’t helped him beat back the idea that he is quietly undermining his bosses in the party.
He just lost his seat as vice chairman of the Council of Governors for the simple but telling reason that there was nobody to propose his name.
He is not seen to have done much for his constituents, definitely not by pissing off the driving class by more than doubling parking fees while both the driving and the matatu class remember that he was connected to the latest round of matatu madness. Ok. That might not be exactly true but he did raise matatus’ patking fees too without at least pretending to improve public transport. Wait. He did promise some buses. But. The matter is also stuck in the mire. He hasn’t done anything remotely landmark.

That is the very unique situation Evans Kidero has found himself in after the underestimated and unfit-to-hold-public-office-Baba-Yao’s plea was heard by the Court of Appeal.
Unless he goes to the Supreme Court and they like his pleas, his fate lies with the powers that be at ODM and then with Nairobi’s impatient voters.
If what we have heard is true, he will face the maverick Mike Sonko at the poll, and we all know how we all seem to hate Sonko for his coloured hair and rudeness to Mutoko but then vote for him overwhelmingly at the election.

Also, the weave-wearing Nairobi community might not like Evans because of what he did to their inspiration.
Things could change, though, because his Twitter and Facebook voters are telling Peter Kenneth to leave his Mayfair Centre and come down the hill to City Hall.