Man made disasters not good for Kenya’s image


Our heartfelt condolences go to the families of the Kenyans who lost their lives in what is likely to be Kenya’s worst oil disaster. This is like a terrible dream that keeps coming back.

Kenyans, who have followed similar incidents over the last eight years or so, are grappling with the traumatic aftermath. To their credit news reporters have gone to great lengths to ask the same question over and over again… “Will Kenyans ever learn?”

In 1998 a tanker rolled into a maize farm in Sidindi, Ugenya. As was the practice, residents rushed out with jerrycans and buckets to “harvest” this godsend gift. Over 30 perished when the tanker exploded. In 2009 over 100 people perished in Sachangwan in similar fashion. They were consumed by the inevitable fire sparked by area residents scooping the highly flammable petrol from the tanker.

Early this year a fuel tanker overturned in Kisumu spilling its contents onto the road. Again residents rushed to the scene to draw fuel from the crippled truck. This time round the police got there on time to prevent the scramble for fuel. It was reported in the media that the Police had to use excessive force to keep residents away. The poor cops, striving to do their duty, were pelted with stones by rowdy Kenyans, demanding to be let in.

The Sinai Village disaster has claimed over 100 lives. Some of these Kenyans picked up containers and rushed to the trench. Many questions go unanswered regarding the behaviour of Kenyans when such disasters strike.

Is it poverty, greed, lack of a value system or just a case of bad attitude? Should we not be running in the opposite direction when a tanker rolls and spills fuel?  Is it that Kenyans never learn even from the horribly catastrophic results of this seemingly ignorant behaviour?

Kenya’s image and reputation is at stake

The news about the fire made headlines across major global news outlets and will continue to do so in the short term. From an image and reputation point of view, this tragic event has a direct impact on the ranking of Kenya as an investment destination.

Consider the preliminary information surrounding the accident. Aging fuel pipes, encroachment on land reserve meant for use by the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and deliberate acts of defiance by residents, seemingly not respecting the law and basic safety principles.
Even after an eviction order by the Kenya Pipeline Company in 2008 the squatters on the KPC land refused to leave. Perhaps political expediency superseded safety concerns. Now sadly people have paid the price with their lives.

Kenya’s ability to regulate safety standards and mitigate potential industrial hazards is seriously called into question. Investors coming into the country will definitely remember these unfortunate events when considering Kenya. This behaviour of the Kenyans who always dash to siphon fuel from tankers instead of helping the victims points to a bigger underlying problem of character.

National values

It is plausible that Kenyans no longer subscribe to the traditional values that kept the society going and may need to refresh their belief system.  The National Economic Social Council (NESC) and the Brand Kenya Board have developed a set of values which by all means reflect the African way of doing things.

These values are expected to among other things, create a national identity for Kenyans and develop a set of shared beliefs, while encouraging solidarity. A value system comes in handy especially when a society has to deal with challenges. Kenya is dealing with myriad of challenges and in this particular instance one could point at; erosion of etiquette, poor work ethic, impunity and disregard of ethical conduct,

Kenyans need to take a hard look at the proposed values if the country is to achieve change from within. These are ;Honouring God, Justice for all, Promoting Peace, Unity, Appreciation of diversity, patriotism, integrity, hard work and respect.

Each individual must be committed to these values and ensure that they become part of their life, if Kenya really matters to them. This is the only way we can enhance the image of Kenya and make this country a good place to work, live and invest in.

(Mary Kimonye is the CEO of the Brand Kenya Board)

11 Replies to “Man made disasters not good for Kenya’s image”

  1. i do agree with your opinion.your main points do describe the current situation in kenya…its not getting better-maybe it will take worse to get good.unfortunately the turn of events recently and past have turned kenya into calamity zones which all could be avoided. manmade catastrophies are kenya’s signature to the world of a broken system.kenya is a jungle itself-all mechanisms of governance died long ago…

  2. I truly appreciate Mary Kimonye’s article on “Man made disasters not good for Kenya’s image”. Clearly we are a people whose value systems have degenerated to nothingness.
    The question that one begs to ask is, “how we can we possibly recreate a value system that will return our human dignity?”
    When a citizen scramble for subsistence to the extend of painful death, eliciting animal-like behavior, testifying to the saying that hunger knows no bounds, then we should worry, for  we have ceased to exhibit any semblance of humanity.

    John Gikima – Nairobi

  3. . The truth of the matter is that this “ordinary wanicinch” have taken the cue from the top. Senior Government officials continue to steal tax payer money and they get to keep it. Infact they continue to get richer and more prosperous. The head of state has his head of in sand as they steal. The other “principal” seems to have given up and is only interested in survival. So Kenyans are just copying them. Why can’t i steal some fuel if so and so can steal billions and keep his ministerial post?

    1. That is such a lame excuse – hw about personal choices – kwani what was the dead slum dweller eating or his source of income the day before the pipeline leaked? Ni ujinga sio umaskini

  4. Very good point Ms. Kimonye.  The resources that are being utilised to cater for avoidable and man made disasters could be better utilised to meet our economic growth objectives. 

  5. I enjoyed the reading until you brought in “God”. Kenyans and Africans must put aside “gods” for a moment and let common sense reign.  We have a very bad way of doing things. When we fail to use the same brains that incidentally “God” gave us, we cry to the same creator. Lets put God aside and let common sense reign and stupidity thrown out of the window.
    Madam Kimonye, i know you do not want to annoy your masters; But tell me why people are in the slums?? These stupid governments must bring people out of poverty and these accidents will not happen. The problem is that those leeches in govt perpetrate poverty so that they can dominate the masses…a proper obedience to the 48 Laws of Power

  6. Thanks for your insightful piece, Madam Kimonye. My opinion is that Kenya is at its height as a FEW MEN EAT THE REST SOCIETY.
    Majority of our people have no means to meet their basic needs. The worst thing is that they have been excluded from gaining opportunities for self advancement by a clique that monopolizes power and influence.
    Kenyans struggle to take their kids to school but when they graduate there are no jobs.Kenyan youth want to engage in productive work, but there are no jobs. Most people with money (most of it stolen from public coffers) are busy investing in real estate- this does not create jobs.

     I am worried that our people cannot afford at least 2 meals a day. That they have no chance to make an honest living. That they cant afford medical care. We want thieves who have looted public coffers jailed and made to pay back (I cant wait to see Gichuru and Okemo loose all that ill gotten loot).

    I am not worried by Kenya’s image right now. In fact I want the REAL image of Kenya to be known all over the world – at least this way there is hope. For the ICC, Interpol, Jersey etc can come for our big time crooks – people who have been untouchable as they brought our once proud nation to its knees. 

    1. Rubbish – I have witnessed heart wrenching poverty in Bombay and Calcutta slums but not a soul will pickpocket or mug you. It has nothing to do with poverty it is about our FREE WILL and the choices we make

  7. Thank you Madam Kimonye. I am one person who is really mindful of our image as you have outlined. Whenever I pass through the airport or border points, watch news I try to put myself in visitors shoes. When moving around out cities I feel like getting out of the car to go and move the heaps of garbage I see around, it is sickening that people heap the garbage and sit next to sell their wares, then there is this issue of values. Why do we resist orderliness. This applies from the top leadership of the country, yes it does! Why do they officiate semi finished, substandard projects? Why has the government failed to enforce sanity e.g on our roads? How can a sane person steal relief food? How does a leader steal money made for the education of poor children?  Why do the citizens resist law and order? People protest damaging every good thing around? It doesn’t solve any problem. I can’t totally blame the government but there is need to be able to enforce regulation for safety, order and national image. All this implies that we are going through moral decay and hence need to address the matter right from the top and urgently. Godly principles would address all the above.

  8. ‘Kenya is dealing with myriad of challenges and in this particular instance one could point at; erosion of etiquette, poor work ethic, impunity and disregard of ethical conduct’ SPOT ON Mary..we can blame neighbour, pipeline, government, mother, father whoever but it boils down to that one sentence.

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