23 April 2018

Kenya: Sonko's Tough Talk Fails to Deliver Nairobi From Rot

When you read Governor Mike Sonko's social media posts, you think of a man who has been working overtime to fix the mess that is Nairobi.

For instance, posts of county staff repairing a broken sewer line, others refurbishing a road full of potholes and collecting garbage, and of the governor meeting foreign investors are a constant fixture on his Facebook page.

However, if you stay off social media for a while and take a walk around the city, you encounter a different reality.

The drainage system and lack of reliable and safe water supply in the county are still major concerns for residents, with several estates in the city still grappling with water rationing more than a year since the programme started early last year.

TOUGH TALK

The governor has been full of tough talk, especially regarding 'cartels' at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company. He has gone as far as sacking some officials on the board, but this has not afforded Nairobians any respite.

Although most of the city's problems predate his tenure at City Hall, it is his promise of a quick fix to Nairobi's problems that has come to haunt him. And now Nairobians are getting impatient.

On Friday, Mr Sonko said on Facebook that while provision of clean water remains a top priority for the county government, investigations have revealed that the water shortage being experienced in many parts of Nairobi is as a result of sabotage by cartels.

"It's unfortunate that residents of Makongeni areas have been experiencing water shortages. As a temporary measure, through the Sonko Rescue Team, I have released a number of water bowsers to supply free clean water to residents of Makongeni Ward and any other estate as we work on a permanent solution to ensure constant flow of water," he wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, several roads in the central business district are littered with potholes. When it rains, roads such as Accra and Kampala become nearly impassable, making the life of pedestrians and motorists a nightmare.

FILL POTHOLES

This is despite City Hall acquiring two rapid road patching machines to the tune of Sh100 million last year to help fill the potholes.

"We are developing and sustaining a world class infrastructure for movement of people which will provide a safe secure environment to support current and future developments," posted Sonko on Facebook last week.

In Huruma, sewage flows freely, exposing residents to health risks. It is the same situation along Juja Road and Eastleigh's Third Avenue.

The situation worsens as you get to city centre on Moi Lane, where residents and workers on adjacent buildings are forced to use cardboards as makeshift bridges to avoid the filth. But their problems are compounded by the matatus parked on the stretch, which leave little room to manoeuvre.

These problems have, however, not stopped the governor from touting the county government's progress in dealing with garbage and drainage system problems on Facebook. The situation shows that the much touted 'Operation Ng'arisha Jiji' has failed to live to its billing.

The City Hall boss has decentralised garbage collection, introduced skits and engaged his Sonko Rescue Team to help, but with little results.

However, the garbage problem seems to be getting worse. For instance, on Juja Road, sections of Eastleigh and River Lane stretch from Machakos country bus station to Gikomba market, traders mix freely with mounds of garbage.

However, the governor remains hopeful his city "regeneration" plan will help deliver his campaign promises.

RESTORE LOST GLORY

"My administration is committed to achieving the regeneration of Nairobi to ensure we restore the city's lost glory as the 'Green city in the Sun'," he said.

On street families, City Hall has set aside Sh1.5 billion through the County Annual Development Plan 2018/2019, tabled in the county assembly in December, to deal with the more than 60,000 street children.

Recent efforts by the county government to flush them out of the streets has not borne fruit.

On the hawkers' menace, Mr Sonko announced the county government would move them to the back streets, have them registered and permanent structures built for them before being transferred to Mwariro market in Kariokor as a permanent solution.

This has not been actualised despite City Hall announcing a multibillion-shilling funding from World Bank towards the project.

Meanwhile, the county government is still grappling with the matatu menace in the city centre. City Hall had planned to move matatus out of the CBD early this month. The county has pushed the plan to the end of this month.

In late August last year, the governor met Matatu Owners Association (MOA) in an effort to root out rogue matatus and address the traffic menace in the city.

"Our discussion focused on a joint effort to streamline the public transport sector, not only to ease traffic congestion, but also in reinstate order," Mr Sonko said.

TRAFFIC JAM

Currently, Nairobi residents spend about an hour on average in traffic, and it is estimated that the gridlock costs the city more than Sh50 million every day.

The promise to use technology to control traffic and to give matatu saccos and other companies incentives to introduce high-capacity buses remains just that, a promise.

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