Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on July 8th, 2011
Categories: News

Last month I railed on about the ‘World’s Worst’ airport, our very own Jomo Kenyatta International (JKIA), as voted by the folk that blog and use the internet; captains of industry notwithstanding. I wrongly pointed out that the airport’s electronic signage was inoperative. On a mission to collect my family off a late night flight I found the information boards all up to speed and working – correctly as it turned out.

However, having said that, I found another more immediate airport problem: where to park! To make way for the new multi-story car park, hundreds of parking spaces have been eliminated. Parking is at a premium; mostly it isn’t available, so round and round and round you go. I almost mounted the kerb and parked on a traffic island, which I’m very adept at doing, anywhere. Luckily I didn’t, as the clamping gang were out in full force. A like-minded soul had his 4×4 clamped on said traffic island, which turned out to be an expensive and time consuming experience. But when you have to park, you have to park. With no alternatives available you’d think that the authorities would go kindly on parking miscreants rather than rub their collective hands with glee at the extra income being generated.

Actually, why don’t they make a temporary parking lot somewhere close-by, charge by all means, and supply a shuttle bus – to ease the congestion in and around the airport? Let alone the stress.

Before moving onto more mundane matters, did you hear about the power problem at JKIA? Peak arrival time early one evening, the power goes – no worries, mate, the back-up generators will have that sorted in a jiffy. Well, they didn’t and the runway and taxiways were in darkness for two hours, with flights diverting to Mombasa, Kilimanjaro and Entebbe. Reminds me of my wife’s last significant birthday at a Club of note. Power out, continued darkness. “What’s happened to the back-up generator?” “We’ve just sent the driver to get some diesel” – trouble was, it had to be hand-pumped as power was out over a broad swath of the city.

Maybe that’s what happened at JKIA? No, can’t be!

The area around the United Nations at rush hour both ends of the day is a traffic nightmare. It must also be a security headache as well. So, when I saw roadworks I assumed, wrongly, that a dual carriageway or even a boulevard, which made a lot of sense, was on the way coming. Sadly not: a high, wide and handsome bicycle path. Our road planners continue to confound me; what with single lane ring roads and cycle paths – traffic jams will never be a thing of the past.

Here is another traffic oddity that seems to be taking hold in Nairobi. When your mobile rings – which is by the way a traffic offence which attracts a maximum fine of Kshs. 10,000/-, you turn on your four-way flashers, slow to a crawl and take the call. Who cares about the back-up you cause!

I had a little sense of humour failure and  made some suggestive hand signals, and was greeted by the miscreant pointing to his phone, like ‘What is your problem? I’m on the phone, bwana…’ Hello!

Nairobi’s City Council continues its over zealous enforcement of it own by-laws; by-laws which the majority of its citizens seem to be somewhat unaware of.

To whit, it is an offence to purchase anything from a street hawker – you both get arrested, hauled off to City Hall and presented to an over-eager magistrate who in most cases applies the maximum fine of Kshs. 2,000/-. Don’t be surprised if the hawker mysteriously vanishes before you enter the City Council compound. Well not so mysteriously, he’s bought his freedom, so to speak.

Why this transaction takes place outside the City Council compound is that (and this is hard to believe) it is unacceptable to pay a bribe within these premises. Unacceptable to you-know-who?

Just so you know, here is a summary of some of these amusing but onerous by-laws:

The City’s Deadliest Sins:

Buying from hawkers.

Spitting or blowing your nose without a suitable cloth or tissue.

Alighting or boarding matatus (PSVs) from non-designated area.

Crossing the road while on your mobile phone.

Playing any game, riding or driving or propelling on a footpath.


Having a ‘For Sale’ or any other sign on your car without first paying a City Council fee.

Making any kind of noise on the streets.

Beware — wheeled suitcases fall under the riding, driving and propelling legislation.

A word to the wise. If picked up for committing any of the above, and to avoid an unnecessary stay in the lock-up at City Hall, plead guilty, even if you aren’t. Pay the fine and get on with life. It’s not right, I know, but is the lesser of two evils. Note that someone else must pay your fine. Why, I don’t know; perhaps as the guilty party you are not to be trusted. Beggar’s belief…

Gotta run…

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