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Decongesting Nairobi traffic needs a solid plan

When the Nairobi County government quickly reversed the ban on matatus accessing the central business district last December it was clear that the plan was not working. An even more ridiculous idea, car-free days in the CBD, was announced by the Transport ministry last month but was also quickly withdrawn.Some ‘experts’ had burnt the midnight oil to come up with these ideas. Looking at how ridiculous everyone agreed they were, one is left wondering what the problem is.

On the car-free days plan, one wonders if it was meant to appease hawkers by providing them with a place to display their wares or an attempt to decongest Nairobi CBD. FILE PHOTO | NMG

When the Nairobi County government quickly reversed the ban on matatus accessing the central business district last December it was clear that the plan was not working. An even more ridiculous idea, car-free days in the CBD, was announced by the Transport ministry last month but was also quickly withdrawn.Some ‘experts’ had burnt the midnight oil to come up with these ideas. Looking at how ridiculous everyone agreed they were, one is left wondering what the problem is.On the car-free days plan, one wonders if it was meant to appease hawkers by providing them with a place to display their wares or an attempt to decongest Nairobi CBD?The problem I see in our county today is how our leadership has become self-serving. And this is at all levels. For who do they want to decongest Nairobi? It is regularly said that less than 20 percent of the city population drives.If implemented, the matatu CBD ban would not have benefited the majority. The car-free days plan was probably meant to address the problem of private cars clogging the CBD. Both are not clever as they do not solve commuting problems in Nairobi.The tragedy we face in Kenya is that the people who are supposed to solve these problems for us view them from their own perspective. Nairobi is relatively a small city.With the road arteries that we have we should not have the traffic jams we see in Nairobi,

We have spent billions of shillings building roads to decongest the city and continue to do so. It has worked to an extent because if this had not happened it would be worse.My point is that this money seems to have been spent without either a clear masterplan or without following it. The big ticket items are done quickly. The small but important projects are not done.There are traffic bottlenecks everywhere that require brains not money to fix. Why they don’t get fixed is perplexing and one can only speculate.The opportunity for huge kickbacks does not exist in small projects. Look at Outer Ring Road. If a few flaws on the road as currently built were eliminated the road would make a huge difference. For instance, both terminal nodes for this road are jam-packed during the rush hour largely due to design inadequacies.Along the road and especially at Pipeline, Mutindwa and Huruma the road does not have bus stops even though it is a major matatu route. The matatus drop and pick passengers on the main carriageway.In the end, all the money poured into that project has not adequately solved the original problem yet it would require just a little more to fix the flaws.You can pick many other similar roads where one can rush quickly through a large part of them until the bottleneck that ensures the road has not solved the original problem.Why would such obvious things then go unattended? I think again it is because of self-serving leadership. Every problem that we as Kenyans complain about looks impossible to solve because the people we have entrusted with solving them think first about themselves. So we pour more billions into these problems and the solutions always look absurd to the rest of us uncontaminated by this bug of selfishness.The resolution of this Matatu CBD ban and decongesting Nairobi is an opportunity for the government, both County and National to think about the common mwananchi and begin to get back to servant leadership.And it is also the chance for ordinary Kenyans to put their feet down and begin to demand that leaders serve them not themselves.Selfish leadership is partly a legacy of our colonial past where the colonial government was largely there to serve the settlers against the colonised. The elite of the colonised took over the government at Independence and have since perpetuated the self-serving government.Those in government today can rise up to the occasion. Kenyans are known to eventually correct their flaws peacefully. I pray that together, the people and the leaders will recognize a change is needed to servant leadership and begin to get there willingly. I see this as part of the change that the Building Bridges Initiative should bring. I can only pray

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