From the earliest years of Nairobi, need to have a working council to manage the town had been a fore front necessity. From the early 1900s when the Indian community settled in Nairobi, what is now Biashara street, organisation was embraced. The Bubonic plague that swept the city, leading to the first massive fire to Scotch the young town (as a solution to rid it off the plague) is only testament to the willingness to maintain the city. One would think the city is cursed, what with all the disasters that have occurred in an uncanny succession.

Fast forward to 2016,the year of our lord. The century has had a toll and now we brag of a city council with workers from parking fee collectors, road sweepers, statement takers and the notorious pick up drivers. Most recently, not known of their official position we hear tales of the muscle men (the badass ‘Kanju’) These are the guys who warrant a second look, if for nothing for caution lest they mistake your luggage to be wares you were apparently peddling on the roadside. They are said to come as a wave; clearing all wares on sale along the roadside left in a hurry by the horror stricken hawkers. The logic here is to have the individual hawker to follow the pickup to the police station, Central Police station and ask for his/her property. It’s best to point out that no-one ever walks in and out with any kind of properties without parting with something /everything or a chunk of your time, resources and unlimited might.

Reclining into my seat after a hearty ugali-nyama meal (finger licking Kenyan cuisine) I watch as KTN releases an investigative piece into the ‘Kanju’ menace. Apparently the ‘muscle’ guys mentioned above (again official positions unknown beyond collecting money from hawkers and small scale shops) have been terrorising those who stand up for themselves refusing to part with the imposed fee. Noteworthy is that the official statement from the Governor of Nairobi is ‘Don’t give them the money!’ why haven’t we thought of this? (pun intended)

Terrorise! Yes you heard that right! They apparently walk around on a daily picking certain amounts from small shops and hawkers, 50/-, 100/-, 200/- per shop/individual. The exposé detailed this as such a normal occurrence in the city such that the few who stood up against them ended up in hospital ICUs and six feet under. So much for having a titanium set of balls and fighting for your rights! Surprising that they have had the time to install a parallel rule of law,complete with a death sentence. The have flourished and made it a new norm, such that only a handful refuse to part with the ‘fee’, the few who we see in ICUs and attend their burials. Have your mafia bells jiggled yet?

Mouth agape I watch as a ‘normal Kenyan’ records a vile, port bellied ,loud exploiter insisted on the number of notes he wants all the while gobbling down a bottle of Coca Cola. Not in a hurry or hiding, why should he? He is the government. The patriot recording hides his phone camera well enough for us to catch a glimpse of the askaris yet not discovered. This one should get an award along with a spot on ‘Hero’s corner’ Mr President……anyone?

Mouth still agape, I wonder where we all went astray. When did we let a city that grew like wild fire at its inception, even necessitating it’s burning just to preserve it, go to the dogs?

We have been complacent! Recently more than before or was all this under wraps?

Were we too busy fighting dictatorship to notice this?

Or has it reared its head in this age of economic blossom?

Maybe the askaris want to make their millions or billions following the wealth accumulated by the police/politicians and other public workers in the recent past. All these can be catalysts to the growth of the monster within.

But before we go around pointing fingers or take to the streets up in arms against the institutions harming us, let’s switch our sight and focus. Isn’t anyone looking or rather overlooking?
Isn’t there an institution or even individual who should overlook and ensure the poor citizenry isn’t exploited or/and extorted? In the 21st century I would expect some kind of mechanism automated to destroy and slay any cartel that comes into existence. Days of the Sicilian mafia are long gone, kindly don’t take us back!

Maybe my imagination runs a little too wild but I would have sworn an existence of an intelligent, and now sophisticated, elite and extremely efficient team in charge of this. Democracy loses its meaning if someone can extort money, kill those who refuse and nothing is done. Action and attention is only afforded when the masses rise up, protest, hold battles with law enforcers in the city center and even threaten revenge?
This is not only sad but it proves a level of ignorance that is not only alarming but ashaming to our progress as a nation, our basic independence as a Kenyan people.

One would expect such a situation to be leveled and set straight in a prompt manner, but three years on here we are. Hawkers are organised, despite their higgledy piggledy exterior. They have their committees complete with a chair, board and officials. Our City Council has these offices set in stone, discussions between the two shouldn’t take this long, especially when lives are on the line.

If there’s any lack of individuals to do the work, kindly Mr. Governor, I offer my services, the whole contingent of them all, to you. I will run a recruitment too because I know the rich skill market we have and export on a daily.(no offence)

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