Quickly, which is the last road accident to make the national news? You know, those gruesome, needless losses of lives that are so horrendous, even by African standards, that they are plastered on the TV news and make the front pages of newspapers like this one, and are then seared into our collective national memory for all of 24 hours before we go back to business as usual – which is the last one you remember?
Life is cheap in Kenya, and cheap lives are expendable lives. But what makes Kenya so shocking is the certainty that every single day, just stepping outside your house is an act of dangerous bravery. Unless you’re part of the moneyed 0.1 per cent in the country and steal everything with impunity, the number of things that could have killed you today is mind-boggling to consider.
Someone was shot dead last night in Nairobi, likely during an armed robbery. It happens literally daily, and the murderers get away with it because some are in the good books of the police, while some are the police. Somewhere in the country, some matatu that should not be on the road will crash, killing dozens.
That matatu is unroadworthy, but the owner has bribed the police to skip inspections and acquire a road license. The price for the cop’s acceptance of the 10,000-shilling bribe? A dozen lives lost when the matatu, driven at breakneck speed in total violation of all traffic laws, keels over and slaughters its passengers.
Somewhere in Kenya today, someone will needlessly die while undergoing 'medical care' at a public health facility. The situation will not be as dramatic as the wrong patient undergoing brain surgery – it will be a case of poor diagnosis by a 'doctor' who should never be allowed near a medical facility.
That 'doctor' will be the child of rich parents who bribed high school teachers and examination authorities to acquire exam materials 'leakage' before the tests, and who will have 'passed' their exams thanks to that cheating.
At medical school, that same student will have bribed lecturers with money or sex – or both – to be awarded passing marks. On graduation, that newly minted 'doctor' will be unleashed on an unsuspecting public, and any examination of their record will quickly uncover a whole line of dead bodies behind them, patients that they effectively mis-treated to death.
If any of the family of those deceased patients should sue for malpractice, our 'doctor' will quietly bribe the lawyers, who will in turn bribe the judges in court, and the case will be tied up in endless technicality issues until, in a final act of ironic mercy for the relatives of the victim, either the case file is 'lost', or the judge dismisses the case on one of those technicalities – and that then is that.
And so, as you walk out going about your business today, look around you, remember some of the faces you see, because at least one of them will die today thanks to corruption. And do watch yourself, because you just might be the next in line to pay the ultimate price for our national obsession with getting rich no matter what, and our national inability to call out the corrupt, the thieves, the charlatans who enable us to live like animals just so they can live like Kings.
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