40 people lost their lives in one place, at almost the same time – for most of them, minutes apart. Their lives literally went up in smoke at Karai, leaving countless others bereft. From that horrific event, the news took a predictable turn. That road is being featured for the second time in a few days on this blog – see how it took me 5 hours to get to Nakuru from Nairobi (150km)
First, pictures and breaking news took to WhatsApp and immediately after to Twitter and Facebook. Pictures spoke thousands of words amidst the 140 characters. A hashtag quickly emerged and the staccato outbursts of disgust at the government and the outpouring of shocked sentiment flowed through the timelines.
Soon, mainstream media “broke” the news with additional detail. There was a truck with 14 GSU and administration police officers among the 12 cars that were burnt down to their shells. The truck registration details revealed it to be Ugandan. A couple of people survived to be taken to hospital. The inevitable death toll counting started. The Red Cross set up the unenviable task of sorting through the mess, connecting loved ones to lost ones. Harrowing eye-witness accounts were rolled out in their graphic horror. And there will be more.
As this continued, folks on social media begin to remember details. Wahome Thuku talked about the perilousness of the speed bumps at Karai back in February this year. Benji Ndolo remembers decrying the erection of speedbumps as a speed control strategy months ago. By the way, someone remembers, the truck should have been on the Mai Mahiu road. Another observes that in fact the truck should not have been moving at night.
Soon enough, we shall begin to seek accountability. How did the truck pass through multiple road blocks and shouldn’t we grab all those police manning them and interdict them? We shall seek accountability from Kenya National Highways Authority – why put speed bumps and not clearly mark them? And we shall despair when we see statements like these that fuel additional questions: “Whoever might have removed the ‘bumps-ahead’ sign made a dangerous mistake,” said Mr Pius Masai, the deputy director of the Disaster Management Unit.
We shall lay blame at National Transport and Safety Authority for being generally negligent in this situation. The opposition is likely to suggest or even demand that the Transport Cabinet Secretary and is Principle Secretary resign for what they shall term as incompetence. They will even wonder that the president should not also resign and claim that this tragedy is proof that he cannot lead. The president’s supporters will counter vigorously and the point will be lost.
40 people’s lives ended abruptly on the 10th of December. Just like that.
Of course, we must lay blame and demand accountability. The county and KENHA for leaving those bumps there. KENHA and the government for leaving this road should be terrible. The truck driver for driving on that road that late at night. The police that the truck passed as it went its deadly way. The president for presiding on the country as it is. The list goes on.
The media will follow the families and their lost ones all the say to the grave. The government will make some kind of populist gesture and soon, the story will recede first into the back of our memories and in a couple weeks it will be overtaken by stories of merriment and reckless accidents during the holiday season.
With all the predictable patterns, we shall not look at ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for that accident. We shall not think about our own behaviour when faced those policemen on the road who demanded bribes from us to avoid being accountable for not having the hazard triangle. We shall not think about failing to act when we saw the GK vehicle drive on the wrong side breaking all the laws. We shall not think about how we kept quiet when the matatu sped on the pavement, scuttling pedestrians so it could get us to our destination before all others. We certainly will not think about how stupid we were telling our friends about how fast we drove to Nakuru. We shall not hold ourselves accountable at individual basis.
We shall just blame the government. We shall attribute it to the abstract notion of corruption.
We are so full of shit.