The Star (Nairobi)

23 September 2012

Kenya: How Governance Training Would Benefit Urbanites

opinion

When one watches councillors of a town or city council, he or she expects drama as most scenes could have been written by a script writer at the World Wrestling Entertainment show. It has been this way for a while. In the 1990s, mayor John King'ori was famous for complaining that councillors were using the mayoral toilet as they fought for control of the council.

Not much has changed since then. Council meetings have to be conducted with burly security officers as anything is possible. Chairs are likely to be flung at those perceived to be enemies who are far away to be punched or slapped.

Once a council meeting is done the battle continues to the parking lot as folks unleash their displeasure on vehicles of their enemies. Dialogue is not part of the way people communicate in council meetings.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when I watched news on Monday and saw councillors from all over the country graduating with a certificate in governance. They have been given the skills to discharge their duties effectively. Hopefully they have not been trained in karate and other martial arts.

If unleashing error on their perceived enemies was not part of training, then this training should be spread to other areas. Should it be deemed to have worked, the first folks that will need this training in working together are the residents of Tana River county. That part of the country has seen the worst flare up of violence since the post-election violence of 2008 and we have been aghast as we try to understand why these folks, known as peace loving suddenly went crazy.

Even more than those who might be traumatised by the horrible events in the Tana Delta, there are others that will probably find these courses in working with other people without resorting to violence very useful. Let's start with the hawkers who had left Nairobi for years and have started streaming back to town as the election looms. Those using the central business district have been forced to remember skills they had long forgotten for fleeing as council askaris and hawkers engage each other.

The god-given right to buy Chinese toys on the streets of Nairobi is great but the problem comes when one picks a rolling ball and then one is caught in a battle royal as the seller flees into the back streets. The only problem is that one is immediately perceived to be the purveyor of the said goods and you are thrown into the back of a creaky old council van to be taken to the city council court. While it is ok to go through this, the council workers will handle you in the most unfriendly manner. A course in dealing with people will go a long way in making life more livable for the rest of us.

It is not just the returning hawkers that will see training on working with people make sense. Other people that would benefit from this programme are the folks that serve at 24-hour fast food eateries in town. When one goes to most of these places for a quick meal, the violence in the language of some of the attendants is quite apparent.

There is no conversation other than a demand for money through a grill and an order. Upon payment, the customer is directed to the people dishing out the meal who are equally cold. While friendly conversation is not recommended at the wee hours of the morning when one is trying to assuage the pangs of hunger after drinking for a long time, I am certain some courtesy will go a long way. Thus this human training will not be amiss.

Venue review: Arfa Lounge Bar, Mama Ngina Street

Sometimes you are walking on the streets of Nairobi when something jumps out and you see something that you would never have imagined. Take this Saturday when I was going with friends to have a drink at the Wine Bar at the 20th Century Plaza in town. Right by the entrance was a little door with the name "Arfa Lounge Bar" and a gentleman with those hand-held metal detectors they have at most buildings in this town to prevent you entering with an explosive device.

There was a red carpet leading into the place and so I decided to convince my friends to have a look at this place. After being frisked we went in and had to take what seems to be quite a few steps up the place. These stairs don't just prevent a person with a wheelchair from accessing the Afra lounge. They are also not safe for those who are able bodied even if one has taken no alcohol. I would hate to imagine the danger a lady with a couple of glasses of wine in her heels would be in getting out of there.

After what seemed like I was climbing the Ngong Hills was over, I got to the top of the stairs and saw a friendly genteman at what looked to be like a counter without seats. I looked opposite the counter and it was a unique look to say the least. The pub had been fashioned from a section of the legendary 20 century cinema. Seats had been pulled out from sections of the inclining movie theatre and people were drinking in lounge seats that were going higher and higher.

It was a very weird experience for me. The seats looked very comfortable and well done in their black and white look and I have to say the décor was very well done. I asked for the price of a cold Tusker and the barman told me Sh240 and I have to say I was taken aback.

The crowd in here was younger looking which isn't really surprising seeing as I couldn't see too many people in their thirties and above trying their luck at this incline. I enquired about the washrooms and was directed out of the pub into the 20th Century plaza where I got a reasonably clean facility.

Now escaping should anything untoward happen is not a very good thing where this lounge is concerned as with its steep stairs and exits which are more or less at the same place. The entrance is at the street and most deadly to use and the other exit goes straight into the plaza which is not really comforting.

Good: Central location, decent décor and seating, excellent service, clean washrooms.

Bad: Pricey, emergency exits fail to convince, disability access non-existent.

My verdict: I would go here for the novelty of going to a bar converted from part of a movie theatre. Safety concerns wouldn't see me going here more than once though.

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