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A case of diplomatic impunity at 8.58am, I told myself, as my eyes darted from the fuel gauge of my sons’ 6-cylinder M50, to the vehicles ahead and the dark blue Chrysler 300C whose registration number ended with 1K, meaning that it was the (official) car of some foreign embassy’s head honcho.
The very undiplomatic people behind the Chrysler’s factory tinted windows must have been rushing somewhere to solve an international crisis, like the war in Iraq, or the imbroglio between Kenya’s principle clowns over the trees in Mau, or lack of them thereof.
The other motorists who were caught up in the traffic gridlock, were on the road just for fun, that is why their way was blocked by the Kenyan driver whose bad manners must have rubbed off on his boss who had forgotten that foreign envoys are required by the Geneva Convention to be diplomats at all times.
As such, he could not remind his driver that inconveniencing other motorists and/or cutting corners is not only bad manners and very undiplomatic, but is also against the law.
Further, in the mother country of the Chrysler 300C – probably the country of the envoy too – that is a serious traffic offense known as a moving violation, which can result in the confiscation of the driver’s license (US spellings intentional) because he is endangering the lives of many road users.
When the diplomat’s driver tried to steer the car in to right lane, there was more gridlock.
He was not making any headway since the oncoming vehicles could not turn to the side of the road without harming the entrepreneurial interests of some mercurial “investors” who have turned it in to a tree nursery and a point of sale for saplings, flowers, clay pots and manure.
Like the Americans, we are a society which abhors hindering others in their pursuit of happiness; the only difference is that we rarely intervene when that happiness is acquired through corruption or total disregard of the city’s bye-laws – which even the City Hall officials do not obey, after all.
Bad manners are infectious you know, and as the Chrysler tried to nose its way in to the right lane, the other motorists – all in keeping with our time tested herd mentality – also started trying to cut corners and within a short while, there was chaos ahead of me, behind me, on the side and the already torturous 20-kilometre journey that had taken two hours of my life started turning in to a daymare, as opposed to a nightmare.
To be fair to the diplomat, it did not take long before a magnificent blue black 5-litre Mercedes Benz with GK registration plate also appeared on the wrong side.
As a show of its occupant’s power and authority to ride roughshod over idle minions, and his ability and capability to drive others off the road, it was sandwiched between other cars bearing GK plates.
Unlike the Chrysler, it did not try to nose its way in to the right lane though.
The menacing looks of the armed men in the first car, an army green Land Rover, did wonders, and the motorists who had the right of way had to give way, by either going off the road or on the opposite lane with vehicles inching their way towards the city centre.
That public display of idiocy and open abuse and misuse of power caused more chaos and confusion as the drivers who had been forced off the road or their rightful lanes struggled to get back, only to be blocked by irate drivers who saw them as the villains of the peace.
Chaos reigned supreme, and all around, there was honking of car horns, and drivers who figured that the horns could not move other cars forward, or blow them in to smithereens, either stuck their heads out of the windows or got out and started cursing, howling and hurling expletives at no one in particular as all of us were caught in a mess which we had played different roles in creating.
On my way back home later in the day, the undiplomatic Chrysler 300C was not on the road, but the daymare was still there with private, public service and GK vehicles being driven every other way as if those who stuck to their lanes had nothing more important to do, or did not want to reach their destinations.
It is very tiring, annoying, demoralising and expensive to drive in a failing state – this is worse than a failed state – where diplomats do not obey traffic rules and where laid down laws are treated as proposals not to be followed, but just to be considered.
Miraculously, proposals are treated as laws already cast in stone with politicians leading the way in denouncing them without as much as telling the people how they can be streamlined to make sense.
After three hours, I got home, just in time to catch Top Cat, the extremely witty animation that features six alley cats led by a smooth-talking TC, who play cat and mouse games with a harangued, albeit law abiding and dedicated police officer, the kind that is an exception in our Great Nation where there is diplomatic impunity and bad mannerisms which foreigners acquire from our politicians who take pride in breaking laws faster than they make them.
When you want to understand Kenyans, and the rot that exists in our society and system, you just have to look at our transport system and how we drive, or more specifically, how we behave on the roads.
Our visitors have learnt from us, and even though they berate us every now and then, they have come to understand that in order to get your way in Kenya, you only have to create disorder because that is our language of negotiation, and the only one we all understand.
We have a long road of confusion that runs from the highest of offices, institutions, the most palatial of buildings in our major cities, and cuts through the smallest backroom offices, the informal settlements, in to the villages and back to our cities where you would expect better mannerisms.
It is a vicious cycle of poverty, idiocy, incoherence, insecurity, violence, backstabbing, mudslinging, lack of understanding and internecine wars.
We have created a national highway that is leading us not to a bright future, prosperity, development, but in to a dark hole, a bleak future, an abyss, and in to the death of our Great Nation – or the little of it that still remains.
PARASTATAL heads who signed the Mombasa port community charter risk being sacked if their agencies do not deliver on the contents of the new entity. The charter signed between the government and the private sector aims at improving the movement of cargo from the port into hinterland