November 15, 2010


Is political privilege blocking the advancement of our country’s roadways? Ministers travelling in traffic-stopping cavalcades don’t have to queue like the rest of us. Do they really understand what it means to travel on roads so tired and worn?

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Political privilege blocks road improvements

Political privilege blocks road improvements

The government’s allocation for road construction and improvement has increased from Sh46.02billion in 2006-7 to Sh104.22billion for 2010-11 and parts of Nairobi at least are only jammed due to the extensive road construction underway.

Last week Roads Minister Franklin Bett, speaking at the Road Sector Investment Programme and Strategy (2010-15) said that the government were focusing on building roads which will boost the economy to reduce the cost of doing business in the region.

Well the Forum is happy with that but there are many Kenyans who are understandably unhappy at the state of the country’s roads and the attitude of ministers and top officials to various transport issues.

Two days after Bett made his pronouncement, the Nairobi-Mombasa highway was blocked at Voi by angry residents protesting at the dire state of the Voi-Taveta road whose 102 kilometres currently takes a stressful five hours to drive.

Roads Assistant minister Lee Kinyanjui flew to Voi to inspect the road only after Parliament ordered it, Franklin Bett having told the House he was unable (or was that unwilling?) to do so.

This was not good public relations from Bett but then when it comes to transport issues, particularly their own, ministers and top government officials seem not too concerned about cost or public relations.

The battle also continues over whether ministers will forego their expensive top of the range cars for 1800 cc Volkswagen Passats to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cost cutting measures.

Meanwhile, Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey is also in trouble over a slight transport issue: that of clearing a car for importation through Mombasa that was more than eight years old (and therefore not eligible for importation) after apparently being requested to do so by his driver. The driver had been interdicted by the court but the minister has refused to resign.

We all know that ministers do not have to hang around in traffic jams like the rest of us. We probably all know of roads where ministers live that miraculously seem to be kept in good order. And few of us can afford the sort of cars these guys are driven around in.

This is the Forum’s initial view. Ministers should accept the Passat deal. Except for reasons of security (which doesn’t apply to most of them) they should have to queue like the rest of us then maybe road improvements will become even more of a priority. And, nearly 50 years after independence it is a scandal that Kenya does not have at least a dual carriageway linking Nairobi to the country’s main port and the coastal tourist areas, both of which are vital to our economy.


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