RE: The Absurdity of A Country That Can Barely Feed Herself Congratulating Its Internet Speed.
By Dorcas Sarkozy
“The most effective change Singapore made was to allow the courts to treat proof that an accused was living beyond their means or had property their income could not explain as corroborating evidence of corruption.” From 3rd World to 1st World.
On 2 April 2015, gunmen stormed the Garissa University, killing 148 people and injuring 79 or more. The attack lasted nearly 15 hours and to date, Kenyans don’t really know what happened.
Two years before the attacks in Garissa on Saturday 21 September 2013, unidentified gunmen attacked Westgate Mall in Westlands. When it was over, sixty-seven civilians lay dead and more than 175 were injured. Along the death and destruction, CCTV videos posted online showed persons dressed in military garbs emptying cash registers and helping themselves to jewelry and goodies from the deserted stores.
Like the Garissa attacks, the public has yet to see a report detailing the outcome of the investigations – at least I have not.
This past Saturday – October 21 – three bodies of victims of the deadly helicopter crash were finally recovered from Lake Flamingo and taken to Umash Mortuary. Images of the rescue efforts splashed on social & print media and TV showed supposed rescue personnel, some without lifejackets or the requisite bright orange safety jackets paddling small boats that could barely able to navigate the lake’s whitecaps.
Only worse than the foregoing images of a poorly-equipped rescue and investigative teams that responded to the crash in Lake Nakuru were the images of the first responders who responded to the fire that broke out inside the main terminal building of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in August 2013.
While such situations call for an all-hands-on-deck approach, that the primary persons responsible for fighting the fire did not have even the most basic fire-fighting equipment such as fire engines/hoses/water/water pressure/PPEs etc. is the height of absurdity.
If ever there was a metaphor on how Kenya has been governed – throughout its history – the picture of a firefighter fighting the roaring blaze with a plastic container (and no, it was not a bucket) filled with water is it.
This image, juxtaposed next to members of the attending fire company standing next to a fire hydrant – indolently and despondently holding a deflated fire hose – even as the fire tore through the building should have maddened even the most jaded citizen.
It did not.
In fact, about one year after the fire at JKIA and months after the Westgate Mall attack, Kenyans were supposedly “outraged” when Mr. Kenyatta was reportedly seen hobnobbing with the rich, beautiful and famous at the Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi – this he was doing even as Al-Shabaab militia killed 28 Kenyans in Mandera.
They still “re-elected” him – twice!
All told, the common thread in these and many disasters in Kenya is the incompetent response to the disasters not to mention the stark absence of adequate and functional equipment. In the case of the fire at JKIA, it was inadequate fire engine companies, adequate fire hydrants but even more laughable, the fire raged on unchallenged because of inadequate water pressure to send jets of the liquid into the flames!
In Garissa it was the near-comedy of errors as the multiple agencies that responded to the attacks – several hours later – were outgunned and tactically, out-maneuvered, by a handful of better trained, better armed and motivated extremists. The rescue operation was delayed because planes were not readily available to transport the commandos to the scene of the attack!
In contrast, Northern California, home to the world famous “Wine Country” of Sonoma, Napa, Healdsburg and St. Helena recently experienced what looked like a scene out of hell.
Massive uncontrolled wild fires fueled by dry vegetation and high winds roared through the various communities and wineries for several days and when the fires were finally brought under control, close to 8,500 structures had been destroyed and more than forty lives lost.
It could have been worse.
Within minutes of the first flames being detected, law enforcement swung into action warning the public and directing traffic – away from the fires. Instead of looking for opportunities to line their pockets, the police and Sheriff’s Department from the surrounding areas coordinated their activities to (a) maximize their impact, (b) reduce duplication of efforts and (c) minimize loss of life and of animals, the latter because the area is primarily a rural/farming community.
The various stadiums, schools, halls, parks and fairgrounds became shelters for those displaced by the fires.
Far from being perfect, the emergency response to the NorCal fires were, unlike the examples listed at the beginning of this article, examples of competence and judicious use of public funds.
The first responders were trained and competent and professional.
Their equipment were well-maintained AND fully functional.
And as soon as it was determined that the fires were out of control, the emergency plans for the various communities kicked in.
An impressive sight was a convoy of fire engines, some from the neighboring states of Nevada, Arizona and Oregon, speeding along the freeway towards the inferno – with police escort. This doubling/tripling of resources deployed against a disaster is facilitated by the concept “Mutual Aid” where resources from unaffected communities are allocated where it’s most needed.
The latest update is that the fires are 100% contained and the state of California has hired a former head of FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Administration – to oversee the multi-billion dollar rebuilding and recovery effort.
Meanwhile the rain continues to “beat us”