Monthly Archives: January 2012

Into 2012 – and still no plaque!


Happy New(ish) Year, Dear Nairobians!

Unlike past years, I am cautiously optimistic about Nairobi City Hall in 2012. While there is always something to complain about, as there should be, the occupants of what is now 5 City Hall Way have actually done some very decent work in the CBD.

For starters, the Aga Khan Walk has been greatly expanded along Co-op Bank House onto Moi Avenue, which significantly improves pedestrian connectivity throughout. The red brick walkways along Kenyatta Avenue should reduce pedestrian congestion along the storefronts while exposing the colonial war memorials, the better to appreciate youthful Kenyans who were trafficked to the front line of a war that was none of their business.

There has also been a welcome widening of sidewalks, trees, benches, and use of one-way streets to limit vehicular traffic in areas of high pedestrian density and shopping precincts, such as Mama Ngina Street.

You may be saying, “Yeah, so what?”, but they are good changes, and when people put effort in and get things right we should acknowledge as much, before moving to what’s not been gotten right. To wit:

Tom Mboya

The Tom Mboya Statue

The Tom Mboya statue, erected only a few feet from the spot where he was assassinated, and the Tom Mboya Walk connecting Tom Mboya Street and Moi Avenue, have increased walkability and connectivity, created additional marketing space and added great character to what was previously a bland, motorized stretch of concrete. To improve it further, the lights around the statue should be kept on the whole night. The additional illumination would improve the lighting of what is a heavily trafficked area after nightfall, while enhancing the role of the installation in evoking perpetual memory. Given current nightly expenses on streetlights, the additional expense should be manageable.

What has not been gotten right is the incompleteness in evidence to all who visit the statue. Shujaa Tom Mboya was unveiled last October to great fanfare by both the President and the Prime Minister of Kenya, yet the interpretive plaque meant to tell the world just how heroic the man was is still missing, almost three months later. The wall surrounding the installation, to pile on further, is only finished on the outside. Such sub-optimal workmanship must disappoint those who come to see it, and if you have been there, you know there are many.

The Great Unveiling

The Great Unveiling. (Credit: nairobipictures)

Still no plaque.

One can understand that time constraints may have prevented completion before the official unveiling. Yet the outstanding work could easily have been completed afterwards. Is there nobody at City Hall, or in the Government at large,  sufficiently embarrassed that Kenyans coming from all over the country are viewing incomplete work? It may sound pedantic, but when you create public art at taxpayer expense, to be seen and appreciated by the public, then surely impressions are everything.

Transporting the Police


Police cars are a fixture in most countries in the world,  ever-present, always cruising the streets and highways, looking for trouble. With the name “POLICE” painted in large bold letters, these cars announce the instant and constantly mobile presence of the law on sight.  Not always in Kenya, however.

What I saw today is unlikely to burnish the reputation of the police as credible first responders.  There was a matatu, and in that matatu a suspect, being transported to the police station. The plain clothes officer did not attempt to commandeer the vehicle; no, it filled up as usual, with the officer presumably paying the freight for himself and his law-breaking cargo. Every ten shillings counts in this business.

On the way, fellow passengers were treated to a narrative of the wrongs committed by the suspect, a man who from the dried blood on his face and clothes, had already received some ferocious retribution, and who from his silent demeanor, either knew he had met his match, or was just relieved to be in custody. One cannot help but surmise that had the matatu strike materialized, and not fizzled out, the law in this case would never have taken its rightful course. When it was badly needed today, there was no police car.