Political & Social Empowerment

A Tribute To All Road Carnage Victims– A Call To Action

In the Friday Nation of 23rd September 2016 there was an article by a similar title authored by the deputy managing editor, Mr. Ng’ang’a Mbugua about road safety. In his article he gave an anecdote about his uncle Joseph who at the ripe age of 27 decided to marry. Having identified the love of his life; he went to see his father-in-law, a staunch mukorino from Naivasha. When he came out from the meeting he was a little unsettled. For dowry the gentleman had asked for a lorry load of stuff, inclusive of a saucepan big enough to cook a whole goat in. Joseph, a barber realized for him to ever afford the dowry he had to diversify his revenue portfolio. So he started a small business venture purchasing clippers with a view to sell to other barbers in Nakuru. He certainly would have raised enough money to make dowry in due course. Painfully, on his third trip; the matatu he was travelling in crashed at Mirera, not far from Naivasha. All the passengers died, the police retrieving over a million shillings strewn among the decapitated victims. Coldest story ever told.IMG-20160926-WA0001

But why would I recount such a tale this late in the night in such gory detail? On Monday 19th September 2016 Ugandan media was inundated with news reports of a cataclysmic road accident that had claimed the lives of two ‘foreigners’ and left three others in critical condition {href=}. This may have been just ordinary melancholic accident news but the shock waves generated by this tragedy were felt far and wide. The epicentre was the Masinde Muliro University Engineering fraternity, sorority and his fledgling family. We had just lost one of the most brilliant, enterprising, altruistic, energetic and a staunch adherent of the Catholic faith; a devout young soul, Eng. John Obonyo. During our student days, Obonyo was a vital cog of the MMUST Engineering Students Association. Not just that. The altruistic nature aforementioned ensured that John drew on his raw academic genius and both the gift of wit and gab to try to explain to some of us the more complex and intricate mathematical, electronic and telecommunication engineering concepts. While the mention of the name ‘JAVA’ only evoked images of expensive coffee whose refusal to buy has seen some of us dumped by our erstwhile non-gold digging lasses, to him this was a tool of the trade to program robotic equipment for industrial work. Among other programming languages which he fluently ‘spoke’ to breathe life to electronic systems included C & Python. To us he was a virtuoso and a wizard at work who literally spoke Greek. How many of us can multiply three-digit numbers off head, the digits being non-zero integral values all the while keenly following the lecture? Try ‘Ja-mbita wuod suba’.  Despite operating at the equivalent of the academic stratosphere he still found time to inquisitively and incisively probe lecturers for responses even after the lecture. He even severally spotted and elected to correct an oversight in quantum physics equations by one hubrical character of a lecturer who took it in jest.

His prowess did not stop there. He was a classroom striker always boning up academically and never winging it. However, on the extra-curricular front; more so during the annual Inter-department Tamasha cup, he was a goalkeeper of no mean repute. He produced save after save, some of Gigi Buffon proportion to help Engineering win many iterations of that cup.

To others, he is just a statistic, one of more than 3000 people who die in road crashes each year in Kenya. But to us he is an inspiration, a friend, confidant, brother, husband, son and a true technocrat of this land.

According to Mbugua; accidents sadly claim the most enterprising people in our economy. Many perish on the path to success and culmination of their toil. All the while chasing their dreams.  Reading about dearly departed souls on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, Salgaa or Ntulele; these places sound like far off lands let alone Uganda. According to NTSA, the number of people who have died between January 1 and September 20 has reached 2180. This is 55 more than those who died within the same period last year. Yet, in retrospect NTSA have carried out more crackdowns this year than it did the whole of last year. Prima facie about 3000 people die on the road each year, but according to World Health Organization the toll could be as high as 8000. Traffic police only enumerate those who die on the spot or declared ‘dead on arrival’ at the hospital. The others who die a week, month or year after an accident are hardly ever accounted for as part of the growing number of road accident victims.

Isn’t it ironic that despite the high number of road accident victims, Kenyans have not been outraged enough to demand a ‘roll of the heads.’ Doesn’t Chapter 4, Article 26, Clause 1 of the newly enacted Kenyan Constitution on the right to life which we overwhelmingly voted for mean anything? With many a world-class business college in this supposed heritage of splendour, Kiganjo Police Training College still produces the highest number of millionaires per capita! News reports about Police vetting read like a fiction novel. Landlords in the force paying their tenants? What balderdash!  In jest, a story has emerged that a young farmer took the initiative to enroll at Kiganjo to brush-up on his entrepreneurship skills. On a serious note, this is blood money. When motorists and drivers of PSVs routinely bribe police officers, are they not only auctioning their collective but also others’ souls?

Authorities definitely know how to stem this tide. True, we do not have enough officers to enforce sanity on all our roads. But as one Mr. Eric Kiniti, a road safety campaigner and member of the Safe Way Right Way board once stated, “if we changed the design of the road in a place like Salgaa we would significantly reduce the number of fatalities occurring there. So why are we not appropriating money on the budget to achieve this end? Additionally, we know that if we increased the number of safe crossing points on Airport North Road and the Thika Superhighway in Nairobi, the number of pedestrians who die crossing the road would be drastically reduced. Why do we have unmarked speed bumps on highways? We could go on and on. Driver fatigue especially for the vehicles charting long courses is also to blame. There is no system in place to ensure drivers work in monitored and regulated shifts. In Britain such a system has been implemented not by the government but by employers. Talk of forward-thinking and not our pecuniary gain motivated business clique.

Shunning over speeding has been overstated. Repairing access roads to hospitals can save lives not just of road accident survivors. Yet, roads like the one leading to Kijabe Mission hospital have remained in disrepair for years; notwithstanding, the institution receiving an inordinately high number of road crash survivors.

Over to you our president, declare road carnage a national disaster and name it a crime against humanity just like one that until recently bedeviled you. Consoling young widows and attending funerals is way too heart-rending and should not be our only preoccupation!  For how long will we sit back and wallow in inactivity, despondency and self pity condoning this asinine & repugnant ineptitude? We must stand up in force to be counted for our friends and brothers. We will not achieve vision 2030 if such amazing and compelling characters are lost from the face of this Earth. Till we meet again Engineer and all others who have fallen by the same sword. We need another John Njoroge Michuki to enforce sanity on our thoroughfares.



By dennismukoya

I am a consummate thinker of new solutions which I passionately endeavour to implement.

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