The periodic deaths occasioned by imbibing of illicit brew mostly in Central Kenya left more than 90 people dead a while ago. We knew then it was not going to be the last time.
It used to take years before another round of unnecessary deaths from illicit brews happened. This time round even before the graves of the brothers in Central Kenya were covered with grass, more people died including an assistant chief, two university students and a high school kid. Chiefs and other administrators always take the bullet for the incompetence of their bosses. It never stops the deaths. Sooner or later, it happens.
News in Kenya is so depressing, nothing inspires anyone anymore. On a daily basis, we are treated to political shenanigans that make us question what goes on in the mind of a politician when he wakes up in the morning. Then we have the exasperating crime that makes us question the laws of common decency and morality. Terrorists, more recently are over-determined to keep the police and journalist busy.
Beyond the gloomy diet of the daily news diet, every so often, we have news of unnecessary deaths that are totally avoidable and point the government’s failure to forestall them. Soon, old women will be lynched in Kisii and Nyamira counties in the name of ridding the community sorcerers and witches. Kenyans on social media will trade stereotypes and there will widespread condemnation of the act and that will be it.
Another regular is when militia or unidentified people descend on villagers killing and looting their property in rehearsed fashion. In the past we have seen it at Tana River, Bungoma, Mt Elgon, Kitui-your guess is as good as mine where next? A politician from the region will be linked to the attacks and we never get to know who are behind the attacks as we forget soon as politicians turn the clock backwards to endorse polygamy in parliament.
And of course we have the horrific accidents on various black spots that claim tens of people. Investigations time and again have revealed that the ill-fated matatu flouted certain rules. The government embarrassed at its weakness to strengthen certain laws will elect to settle the hospital and funeral expenses of the dead. And we move on. Or they introduce the alcoblow or temporarily suspend night travel. More people keep dying. Tankers will spill oil and villagers will gather to make a kill from the spill. And of course die in hundreds.
What connects these incidents that lead to individuals losing their lives needlessly is that is mostly the poor who are susceptible. Lives of poor people in Kenya are expendable. They are only useful when voting, attending political rallies, paying offerings and tithes to their pastors, and of course they will be the bulk of million signatures that CORD seeks for the umpteen the third referendum in as many political cycles.
Their problems are invariably valuable opportunities for a politicians to gain shameless political mileage. There are politicians who actually wait, possibly even pray for disasters, so that they can donate something and ensure their voices have been heard.
There is something inexcusably wrong in a country where politicians exchange fists in funerals. Ours is a country where politicians convert any gathering be it a church or a funeral into a political rally and mud-slinging is fairly common. The bereaved too don’t mind as long the politician raises the stature of the funeral and drops a few thousands in the name of commiserating with the family.
And therein lies the fact that for the politician and the ruling elite, a poor person life is of no significance to them. That is why they are always slow to act on mitigating measures to preclude such deaths. Some measures only require common sense and the government cannot claim lack of funds. Banning illicit brews, protecting old women does not need donor funding.
A good example is the absence of footbridges along Mombasa Road, yet individuals must cross the road at various points to board matatus to and from work daily. Car owners are part of the conspiracy towards poor people, because they are hardly patient for pedestrians since that is how they have been reconditioned by the education system and the unfettered capitalist culture that blinds many as they climb the social ladder.
Thus, when the poor die, the government is quick to settle their funeral expenses. And attend their funerals to forage for votes. It is disheartening that more than five centuries since the days of slavery trade, the African elite still has a detached connection with its masses. We see death everywhere. From South Sudan, Central African Republic, DRC, Nigeria to Somali, hapless civilians are killed daily as the governments or rebel groups backed up by the various powers-that-be in the world watch over the killing and maiming.
The affected are mostly poor civilians whose only mistake is to be born into the wrong place in this cruel world. The rebels and government functionaries that wage wars have their families tacked somewhere in swanky neighbourhoods and prestigious universities in various countries that are stable and functional as they ensure that their countries remain third-world and mired in poverty eternally.
The ruling elite and the rich in Africa are a selfish lot, both deliberately and inadvertently. Given the wars, diseases, accidents, illicit brews, famine, drought and other ills that afflict the poor rarely affect them; they rarely care about the poor. They just want their votes and may be to be a market to their goods, mostly from their companies or smuggled to the country through their corrupt practices.
They rarely use the killer roads. They can fly or use their state-of-the-art vehicles that are comfortable and I daresay, less prone to accidents. When sick with lifestyle diseases, they fly abroad. They can afford the best rum in the world. Their homes are permanently connected to power, clean water and security is guaranteed. The business of existing to survive is left to the poor. Them, they live.
This explains why everyone in Kenya wants to cut corners and get rich instantly. It breeds the greed as you have witnessed in the matatu sector where private hands regulate the fares recklessly extorting the poor mwananchi. Touts and gangs control the routes. It explains the corruption that haunts every department of the government, where aliens are left to walk into the country for a ‘small’ fee that instantly transforms the life of the police officer, ‘lucky’ enough to be at the border.
And the immigration officer who pockets the money to give a national ID. Or the police who takes money from a matatu and allows it to carry excess passengers and break other laws. Or the chief and police who take bribes from illicit brewers essentially conniving with greedy brewer to kill innocent Kenyans who cannot afford a decent poison sanctioned by Kenya Bureau of Standards.
But the rich are different. When they die, they die differently. Their funerals are broadcast live to our living rooms. And when they die in large numbers, they are given a day of national mourning and national prayer. Even religion attends to the needs of the rich differently. As a poor man you are simply dispensable and your death is good riddance. That is the message from the government and the elite in society.