BY KEN MACHARIA
If the City Council of Nairobi implements all its by-laws, most of us might end up facing charges for contravening rules set by the city fathers.
There are over 150 rules and regulations on the Council’s website governing parking, waste management, hawking, retail shops, health and other areas within the City.
Under the general nuisance offences, you could get arrested by “kanjo” officers for ‘playing any game, riding or driving or propelling on a foot path’.
If you happen to own a car, the city inspectorate can arrest you for ‘washing, repairing or dismantling any vehicle in a prohibited area except in the case of emergency.’
While some of these by-laws may seem frivolous, Nairobi residents learned discipline the hard way when the Council started implementing some of the by-laws a few years ago. Scores of city residents were arrested for littering, spitting or jumping the traffic lights.
The Council’s inspectorate is now moving to tighten its compliance policy. Arrests have been made for ‘spitting on footpaths or blowing the nose aimlessly other than into a suitable clothe or tissue.’
Interestingly, under the ‘by-laws at a glance’ web page, walking or driving while talking on a mobile phone is not indicated as punishable, an offence that some Nairobi residents have been arrested for.
However, ‘obscuring, molesting or interfering with any member of the fire brigade when on duty’ or ‘entering any premises which are on fire without authorisation from a senior fire officer’, is illegal.
In the event of a fire, the Council by-laws stipulate that the owner of a building on fire will pay for the fighting services whether the owner requested for attendance or not. The chief fire officer can break into any premises within the city ‘which appears to be on fire without consent from any person’.
In regards to public transport, passengers should queue at a matatu terminus if they are more than six in number at the waiting area. In addition, the council will take stern measures if passengers agree to ‘be driven in any overloaded vehicle such that its contents are spilling’.
But if you thought our capital has strange laws, here are a few in the US that would make our by-laws appear lenient.
In the State of California, it is illegal for a woman wearing a red dress to be out on the streets after 7pm and it is also illegal to ride a horse while under the influence. Residents are also not allowed to set a mouse trap without a hunting license.
In Los Angeles courts, it is illegal to cry on the witness stand; it is a misdemeanour to shoot at any kind of game from a moving vehicle, unless the target is a whale, while Persons classified as “ugly” may not walk down any street.
In a number of states, a man is allowed to beat his wife, but not more than once in a month.
In Denver, ‘the dog catcher must notify dogs of impounding by posting, for three consecutive days, a notice on a tree in the city park and along a public road.’
In Sterling, ‘Cats may not run loose without having been fit with a taillight’. In Blythe, you are not permitted to wear cowboy boots unless you already own at least two cows.
Of course not all by-laws are enforced by council or state authorities. There are simply not enough cells to hold all the offenders and some laws have become obsolete, but are still in many city hall records.
(Ken Macharia contributes technology articles to Capital Lifestyle web page)