03/02/2015

The Kenyan playground grab

Uncle Tom / By Uncle Tom

Uncle Tom is a bit happy with Kenya.

ZAM has been giving Kenya a hard time lately. It denounced the police killings of terror suspects, raids on Somali citizens and draconian draft laws against investigative journalists in that country. But, my friends, there are nice things happening there too. In the beginning, the story of the Langata playground wall was not nice at all. Poor kids at this primary school in Kibera, Nairobi, came back after the holidays to find that their playground was gone. Somebody had put a wall around it and destined it for an as yet unknown development.

Now these kids got their parents, teachers, big brothers and sisters, friendly students, NGO activists and later even the government’s National Youth Service members to break that wall down. And, pushing, clawing and beating at it with their little fists, they did their bit too. Then the police came to disperse them with tear gas. (This again is not a nice part of course. But it gets better now.)

The land affairs minister was outraged. She demanded action against the police and against the bad businessmen who built that wall. Then she found out that the businessmen had actually properly applied for the land development to the proper city council and the proper land affairs office with all the proper documents. And that the whole drama was her own government’s and land commission’s fault. Not one civil servant had had realised that they were giving out development permits for a school playground, that, incidentally, had belonged to the school since 1925. The outraged Land Affairs minister had to apologise.

But the kids have their playground back, and that is what makes Uncle Tom happy with Kenya today. This kind of thing is the only medicine, as far as I can see, that will teach silly bureaucrats to think before they shuffle paper the wrong way. Kids for Playgrounds against Corruption!

Sadly, Kenyan Land Hills MP Alfred Keter still thinks that HE is the medicine against corruption. Corruption, in his book, means everything that inconveniences him. He explains it all on a You Tube video where he swears at traffic cops for not letting a truck without a permit pass through a border bridge. “He knows the president,” he shouts. He will have ‘powerful people’ make phone calls. They are motherfuckers. He as a parliamentarian “can make the laws and therefore also break the laws.”

He explained later on TV that what he did there was not corruption. He was FIGHTING corruption. “Because when these traffic cops ask for permits it means that they want money,” he said.

Uncle Tom couldn’t care less about Alfred and his antics. But again, the furore and interviews and Kenyans commenting and journalists investigating, all that, my friends, makes me happy. Because it shows a country seriously busy looking at its own mess and debating how to sort it out. We in the States could learn a thing or two from that.