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NGWIRI: To reduce road carnage, let’s try mobile police patrols, not swoops

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By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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Last week, a Kiambu magistrate gave Kenyans a mighty jolt when he appeared to accord driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs a measure of respectability. A careful reading of his ruling, however, indicates that he was only going by the books and, true to his interpretation, there is nothing in the Traffic Act which forbids going behind the wheel after drinking alcohol; what is unlawful is failing to control the vehicle while drunk.

The only problem with that sagacious ruling is that drink-driving is perhaps one of the worst killers on Kenyan roads because alcohol impairs judgement and is a clear danger to society. As a result, I would not advise motorists who love their tipple to take the magistrate’s ruling too much to heart, for they will regret it — and they should. In many parts of the world, DUI is a most serious crime, which should be the case in Kenya too. As it is, the Grim Reaper has had a bountiful start to the year. True, inebriation is not always to blame, but since we only wake up to the reality when a huge number of Kenyans die on the road and rarely get excited when private vehicles crash, the war of attrition against our lives is bound to continue until we change our driving habits.

Already, by my own unsupported count, at least 30 people have died in road accidents this year, a very conservative estimate. This is because only when an accident claims a high number of casualties are they reported in the media, and this kind of data is hardly reliable. Obviously, many more people die long after an accident, by which time almost everyone has moved on except care-givers and the bereaved families. In short, Kenyans have only a hazy idea of the actual number of accident deaths at any one time.

However, it is generally agreed that Kenya leads in the number of road deaths in Africa — and the world. Why this should be so has long been puzzling considering there is no empirical evidence the country has the worst drivers in the universe, lacking in skills and the will to live. The only conclusion is that we lag behind the rest of the world in traffic law enforcement due to a simple reason: runaway corruption. In a situation in which every traffic police officer seems to be on the take, nobody should expect PSV drivers or private motorists to play ball. It is always easier to bribe your way out of trouble than to attend court.

Another reason such grim statistics endure is that any official attempts to restore order on the roads are, at best, only transient. The year 2004 will always linger in people’s memory for that is when the heretofore unthinkable happened: There was a genuine attempt to stamp out indiscipline on the road with the rigorous imposition of the Michuki Rules. This is when Transport minister John Michuki stared down the entire matatu industry and there was an immediate reduction in the number of road deaths.

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Before he forced down the rules on PSV operators, no one thought the transport sector could be tamed. The rules were basic: Speed governors, functional seat-belts, uniforms and badges for drivers and touts. There was to be no more over-lapping, no obstructing other vehicles, and no stopping to pick up and drop off passengers at non-designated spots. After Michuki left the ministry, the number of accidents went back up to their mind-numbing pre-2004 levels.

Fast forward to November last year, and we went back to the same ritual and the same vigour under Dr Fred Matiang’i and Mr James Macharia. For a while, everyone thought the crackdowns carried out on PSVs would make a difference. Today, board a PSV and you will realise nothing much has changed. In many such vehicles, the seat belts only secure the knees, while the drivers have found ways to override speed limiters, and in rural areas, to cram excess passengers into their vehicles.

There is no doubt that this will go on until the next crackdown when unruly PSV crews will obey the rules for a short while and then derisively go back to their old ways. There are two reasons for this. The kind of mobilisation witnessed in November and December by law-enforcers was simply unsustainable. There is no way so many people can be deployed all over the country to check on errant motorists for any length of time. Police officers, APs and NTSA personnel have many other things to do.

Secondly, the very idea of sporadic swoops does not make much sense; they inevitably lead to evasion by non-compliant matatus, punishing commuters and leading to inconclusive outcomes. What is really needed is a sustained effort to ensure traffic rules are obeyed all the time. Perhaps this could be best achieved by deploying more officers on motorcycles to patrol the roads and corral errant drivers. That would restore order, especially on roads leading to and from the city infamous for daylong jams. Kiambu and Magadi roads readily come to mind.



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Cameroon turns stadium into isolation centre as virus cases hit 650

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NDI EUGENE NDI

By NDI EUGENE NDI
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Yaounde. Cameroon has turned a football stadium in the country into an accommodation centre for coronavirus patients as authorities grapple with lack of space to lodge and treat the growing number of people testing positive for the virus.

Minister of Public Health, Dr Manaouda Malachie, said on Saturday that the Yaounde military stadium will now serve as one of the large capacity centres in the capital expected to increase the country’s management capacity to more than 3,000 beds.

He had earlier accompanied the Secretary General of the Cameroon Presidency, Mr Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, for an inspection of the stadium.

Authorities are also using some newly constructed social housing apartments in the country as accommodation centres.

Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Central African country have hit 650 as it recorded nine deaths and 17 recoveries.

The country was the fifth on the continent with the highest number of confirmed cases after South Africa, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco as at Saturday.

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According to the Public Health Minister, the growing number of identified cases of the virus is thanks to a revised government strategy which includes mass generalised testing.

A mass testing campaign began in the country’s economic hub, Douala, with community health workers going round neighbourhoods to find potential positive cases.

“Similarly, there is a large order for respiratory assistance equipment through the central procurement office of the United Nations Development Programme,” the minister said.

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Woman begs CS Kagwe to release her from extended quarantine – Nairobi News

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A woman placed under mandatory quarantine has captured the attention of Kenyans with her passionate appeal to Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.

The young woman penned an emotional open letter to the Health CS asking him to reconsider the 14-day extension of their isolation.

Kagwe on Saturday announced that those who have been in quarantine centres will have to extend their stay their by a fortnight.

This is after it emerged that some of those quarantined were sneaking out to go partying, a move that could further spread Covid-19.

In the letter written from quarantine at Pride Inn Azure hotel in Nairobi, the woman lamented that it wasd unfair for individuals who have been adhering to the government’s orders in quarantine to be punished for the sins of those who have been flouting the rules.

“We continue observing quarantine rules even though the rest of us tested negative. We wear masks every time we step out of our rooms. Sir, we are not party to the cases you cited in your press briefing. We therefore PLEAD with you to INTERVENE in our case, and authorise our release after our 14 days quarantine are over. Some of us are due to check out of the hotel on Monday the 6th of April,” read part of the letter.

In a separate video recording, the young woman experiences an emotional breakdowns as she narrates her experience in isolation.

She said she arrived in the country on March 23, and was taken to the hotel for quarantine, a stay she lamented has been unpleasant.

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The woman narrated how she had suffered four panic attacks while some of her fellow students quarantined at the same hotel often break down in tears.

“My greetings to everyone watching this video, I arrived in Kenya on the 23rd of March after I flew in from Canada. We were taken to a hotel where we were told we should quarantine and I complied. Now what happens on the 12th day we are told that we have to stay for 14 more days after our period is over. Considering we had followed all the government had said.

“So many of us are university students in the hotel, there is a pregnant mother who needs prenatal care and she is not getting that. So many of us are travelling from abroad and it is like our mental health has not been put into consideration at all. All this is taking a toll on our mental health if we won’t be affected by the virus for sure we will get so many panic attacks.”

I have had four panic attacks in the last two hours. The government has not taken into consideration the mental health of all the people quarantined,” complain the University student.

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State clears way for affordable fertiliser : The Standard

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Farmers maintain one-meter distance while planting in Mangu Estate, Nakuru County. [Harun Wathari/Standard]
Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) has partnered with Moroccan fertiliser manufacturer, OCP Group, to enable smallholder farmers access low-cost input.

The partnership will see Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) distributed to farmers at Sh2,300 per 50kg bag.
KNTC Managing Director Timothy Mirugi said the partnership with OCP Group through its subsidiary, OCP Kenya, was in line with the government’s objective of promoting agriculture under the Big Four agenda.
Mirugi said the fertiliser will be sourced directly from the manufacturer in Morocco, thus cutting costs normally charged by suppliers and middlemen and shouldered by farmers.
SEE ALSO: The CEO who sometimes goes without salaryThe move gives maize farmers a sigh of relief. The farmers have been buying the same amount of fertiliser for between Sh2,800 and Sh3,100 from some stores in the North Rift region.
Limited stocks
Farmers have been scrambling for limited stocks of last year’s carryover of subsidised fertiliser in Eldoret and Moi’s Bridge National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots. An official from the board, who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity, said they were yet to receive subsidy for the current year.
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During the opening of this year’s Eldoret Agricultural Society of Kenya show, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya announced that fertilisers for this year’s planting season would cost Sh2,300 per bag.
Uasin Gishu Agriculture Executive Samuel Yego recently said NCPB still has 32,000 bags of last year’s subsidised fertiliser at the Eldoret depot, and another 25,000 bags in Moi’s Bridge. He said this was inadequate since the county requires over 550,000 bags.
Yesterday, Mirugi told The Standard that they would guard supplies from unscrupulous business people who may buy the fertiliser in large quantities to sell at higher prices.
“We are targeting smallholder farmers to enhance food security and economic empowerment. Priority will be given to those who cultivate 10 acres. Those with 50 acres will also be considered after vetting,” said Mirugi.
He said mechanisms are in place to ensure the input only benefits farmers who produce maize, wheat and other food crops. “We are liaising with agricultural officials and county administrators, coordinated by county commissioners, to ensure only genuine farmers benefit,” he said.

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Related Topics
Kenya National Trading CorporationOCP Groupfertiliser

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