NERIMA: Heap of issues swept under the carpet is rising, let’s clear the pile in the new year

Friday January 10 2020

A woman jumps over a puddle of water on Accra road in Nairobi.

A woman jumps over a puddle of water on Accra road in Nairobi. The way we view bad roads is the same way we view our politics. By simply sweeping major issues under the rug and hoping that we never trip over the lump. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
By NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
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It is a new year and political temperatures will be on an upward trajectory in the coming months. One would think that Kenya has an election in 2020, but polls will be in Tanzania, Somalia and Burundi.

It is fascinating to hear that people from other African countries know what is happening in Kenya politically, but if you ask a Kenyan about another country, they would have no idea.

This time of the year when people feel ambitious, energetic and ready to make changes in their lives by setting goals that they want to achieve by the end of the year.

Politicians have not missed out on this boat as they took to their social media platforms to announce their New Year resolutions.

One politician declared how he would deactivate his social media accounts, he would be off alcohol for the entire year and focus on his campaign.

What is even more intriguing is the fact that social media is now a personal media house, where press statements can posted any time. However, mainly male politicians recognise this fact.
Female politicians hardly utilise social media to boost their campaigns or share information with the public. So finding information from the individual is difficult—maybe in articles where they are mentioned in scandals, or very few scattered profiles. That is why finding information on women is difficult on Wikipedia because they need to be referenced, and women even those in politics hardly want media attention. I hope for some women in politics their New Year resolution is to be more vibrant on social media.

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There was a day I was on a road in an estate in Nairobi not far from the airport, heading to visit a friend who had invited me to see her business. On the way, I was worried that the car would get stuck in a pothole. There were several moments I thought that I should turn back.

As I turned down the radio to focus on driving, there were little droplets on my wind shield. It began to rain.

And then my usual feeling every time it rains in Nairobi followed, anxiety. Because our roads become streams and small rivers. Driving becomes a skill when it comes to choosing the best route, including how to manoeuvre over water-filled potholes—that must be memorised because they become invisible!

That day, I did not know where I was, the car suffered. I also realised that most of the cars that passed me were four wheel drives. People have found a way to manoeuvre through the problem.

On some potholes you will find young boys putting rocks and asking for money. Some drivers spare change, while others have their windows up focusing on the road that may damage tyres if not careful.

These potholes are filled with stones and sand which provides a temporary relief, but when the rain comes these are washed away and the pothole is back and even bigger.

There have even been strikes in some areas by public service vehicles because roads are impassable, forcing the government to fix roads expediently.
The way we view bad roads is the same way we view our politics. By simply sweeping major issues under the rug and hoping that we never trip over the lump.

We never really solve anything, and every year we continue to sweep, and wait for another election which almost always reveals the heap, and we jump over it, and exhale when we do, because we survived it.

For some that period just makes us anxious, and we cannot wait for it to pass so that we can go back to our normal lives. One day, we will not be able to jump over the rising dirt under the carpet, it will be too high.

We had started talking about national conversations about building bridges and somehow in a matter of a month it has been overtaken by politics.

On New Year's eve, another politician put up a post on social media and wrote about vying for the presidential seat in 2022 and that his manifesto would on rising from rags to riches.

One would think that we were about to have an election in Kenya. But, shouldn't we focus on issues and ideologies, being president is about public service and not individual goals.

Here we go, another year of sweeping issues.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW

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