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BLOODY BUSES

The Forum would like to wish a Happy and Prosperous New Year to all our readers!

The Standard ushered in the New Year with the headline ‘the tough road ahead’ citing the up and coming difficulties likely to be encountered in getting MPs to pass legislation in the House, the appointment of a new Chief Justice and Attorney General, continued conflict over the ‘Ocampo Six’, and the possibility that the prospect of Kibaki’s succession could trigger early election campaigns.

The Nation, similarly, went for the headline ‘2011: The road ahead’. It was the same ‘road’ theme but The Nation was more optimistic, looking forward to economic growth and positive reforms in the coming twelve months.

In so doing The Nation echoed President Kibaki’s New Year message that looked forward to six per cent economic growth in 2011, youth empowerment through more employment, the implementation of the new constitution, reform of the police services, and justice for the victims of post-election violence.

The Forum hopes both the President and The Nation are right on this occasion. Time will tell.

The New Year’s Day edition of The Nation hadn’t finished with the ‘road’ analogy on its front page. Page 11 carried a review of ‘The year of big infrastructure projects’, declaring ‘Ambitious projects expected to boost revenue and create jobs in the region’, including the massive Museum Hill Interchange in Nairobi and the Nairobi-Thika Road development.

To be fair, one thing one has to admit is that there’s plenty of road development going on, at least in the capital city. No sign of a motorway to Mombasa yet but Transport Minister Amos Kimunya did raise the prospect or a 12-lane ‘superhighway’ to Lamu where a new port is to be built. Again, time will tell.

That’s all for the future. The present reality is that the December/Christmas period has been the worst in terms of road deaths in Kenya’s history with over 400 people killed, including 170 pedestrians, and 1,840 injured in 314 fatal accidents.

The Standard gave the causes for the accidents as human error, speeding, over-taking, overloading, and poor tyre pressure. To this list The People added ‘human error’, fatigue and ‘reckless driving’. The People also noted that the 2007 and 2009 Traffic Acts that would have brought in much stiffer penalties for driving defective vehicles and overloading, for example, and that could have been used to curb offences, have still to be gazetted. “The Acts have never been printed and we are wondering whether it is due to a conspiracy between matatu drivers and some Government officials”, a police officer was quoted as saying.

Ah, the matatus… Virtually every photograph of fatal road accidents carried in the press over Christmas featured a matatu or a bus. The Forum has written of this problem before. Until the matatus in particular stick to the speed limits, carry no more than the maximum number of passengers allowed and conform to basic levels of roadworthiness, this massacre will continue.

So, a message to His Excellency the President: The Forum agrees with you about ‘implementation’ in 2011 – implement the 2007 and 2009 Traffic Acts! And in the meantime, use existing laws to charge some of these drivers with manslaughter.

Zimbabwe military press conference

Raila Odinga Speech at the CSIS Washington DC, USA

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