Nairobi is pathetically disgusting and unbearably filthy

Nairobi

Recently while trying to zigzag my way between merchandise spread on verandas, the pedestrians, and the slow-moving vehicles whose roads have been taken over by the hawkers along Mfang’ano, Ronald Ngala, and Tom Mboya streets, I told myself that the residents of Nairobi deserve what they’ve got.

They deserve what they’ve got because in every electioneering period, the politicians who promise to make life in Nairobi unbearable, to let hawkers roam CBD, to never resolve the traffic jam, the politicians who promise to never deal with garbage, are the politicians that get elected. Of course, they never make these promises directly, but they do so by appealing to that electorate that has no regard for an orderly civilized city a reasonable human would be proud to live in. That’s how Nairobians ended up with Mike Sonko, and now Sakaja, as second and fourth governors of Nairobi respectively.

I could be wrong though. That is, Nairobians probably do not deserve a pathetically disgusting city. You see, early last week I went to Nakuru, a town that has held the record of being the cleanest town in Africa. Also a town that came to be known as one of the filthiest towns in Kenya. When I visited the town last week, the thing that struck me was how clean and organised the town has become; at least compared to when I last visited it. The town has clean drainages, no trash in the streets, no unnecessary traffic in the CBD, and best of all no hawkers spreading their wares on the pavements. Nakuru, like Nairobi, has also elected governors based on popular promises like allowing the hawkers to roam around the CBD.

It was the promise to let hawkers back into the CBD that got Lee Kinynanjui elected as governor. The promise to allow back matatus into the CBD is what made Susan Kihika narrowly win the hotly contested 2022 gubernatorial race against Lee. But even after the two made their promises, they did not implement those promises. That is, both Lee and Susan have continued to sustain the sanity that was started by Governor Mbugua. Nakuru, the once cleanest town in Africa, has progressively moved back to claim its once-upon-a-time renowned decency.

The lesson from Nakuru tells us that politicians can still promise trash but deliver gold. A leader may for example issue false promises like allowing matatus back into the CBD, but upon being elected choose to partially implement the promise. This is what Susan has done for Nakuru. Instead of allowing all PSVs back into the CBD, she has ensured that the matatus that access the CBD do not exceed the capacity CBD can handle.

It follows from Nakuru’s experience that Nairobians don’t have to live in filth, cope with unending traffic jams, queue for hours just to get to Thika during rush hours, or zigzag their way through the busy streets of Nairobi thanks to entitled hawkers.

The three plagues that bedevil Nairobi namely garbage, traffic jam and hawking can all be dealt with very easily. Hawking for example can quickly be dealt with by issuing an executive order barring anyone from selling merchandise on the streets. The worry that hawkers won’t have a source of income and as such probably become criminals is a misplaced worry. Yes, they will be devastated for a few months, but after the devastation, they will figure out how to navigate through the tough economic times. Nakuru hawkers did figure out how to live with the hawking ban in CBD.

Garbage collection is also as simple as implementing the law and ensuring that all wastes are disposed of at designated areas. Whereas traffic jams can be dealt with in three ways: 1. Ensuring order and respect are maintained in the matatu sector, regulating the number of matatus that can access the CBD at any given time (Nakuru has already done it by making it clear that no SACCO can have more than 5 vehicles within the CBD at any given time), and banning personal vehicles from accessing CBD.

Nairobi doesn’t have to be pathetically disgusting and unbearably filthy if Sakaja so wishes.

Read: Limit Matatus to 4000 to control traffic jam in Nairobi

Summary by ChatGPT

Leadership and the Challenges of a Congested City: Lessons from Nakuru for Nairobi

The author reflects on the challenges facing Nairobi, particularly the issues of hawkers, garbage, and traffic congestion. They argue that these problems can be solved with strong leadership, citing the example of Nakuru, which has successfully dealt with similar issues. The author suggests that politicians should not make promises to allow hawkers, matatus, and personal vehicles into the CBD, but instead, should work to regulate these groups in order to maintain a clean, organized city. The author also suggests that Nairobi residents do not have to accept a dirty, congested city and that the governor can take steps to improve the situation.

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