Nairobi vs Kigali... Copied from DN. (long read)

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Village Elder
Kigali and Nairobi are
two sides of the same
coin. One has cleanliness that
shocks any regular
traveller to sub-saharan
African cities. The other
has filth that beggars
belief. One understands that a red traffic light
means stop and even
boda bodas observe
that. In the other, traffic
policemen wave you
through red lights then arrest you on another
occasion for doing
exactly that. In one, touts wait with
minimum fuss for a bus
to fill up and depart. In
the other, a poor
woman is separated
from her children and luggage as touts snatch
them to force her into
their vehicle. One city is
hypersensitive about its
security, leaving you
with a feeling that the
trees lining up the
middle and flanks of dual carriageways are
watching you. (Staggered by the clean
nature of one bus
terminus and assailed
by images of the
bedlam at Machakos
“Airport” Country Bus Station, I asked an
official: “Can I take a
picture?” “No,” came
the reply. “Why,” I
asked, “security?”
Question: Why did I think it necessary to ask
for permission before
taking a picture in a
public place? Guess). The other city revels in
freedom. It is casual
even when going
through the motions of
appearing to mind its
safety. Just a few hours earlier
at the checkpoint before
entering JKIA, a
policewoman never
interrupted her chit
chat on the phone and just glanced at women’s
handbags as she waved
them through. She
didn’t search them.
There was no policeman
to frisk the men, so they walked past her. The thing was a farce. It
was a nuisance being
made to leave the
vehicle for no reason. Nairobi — and Kenya in
general – is a free
society and this liberty
includes the freedom to
die needlessly as the
relatives of the approximate 800
victims of terrorist
attacks can attest. Kigali — and Rwanda —
does not have a single
terrorist victim. One city is quiet, the
other is loud.
(Somebody please help
me crack this one: a
tout yells himself hoarse
shouting, “Kibera namba nane!” Yet you
can read the route card
on the dashboard. If you
can’t, the driver can
assist you. Even if you yelled to the
point of spitting out
your lungs, a passenger
not going to Kibera
would not change his
mind. If he is headed there, he doesn’t need
his ears beaten to pulp
over that. Why expend
an incredible amount of
energy on so futile an
activity?) In one city, you can tell
somebody with whom
you have a meeting
with reasonable
certainty the time you
will get there. In the other, a journey that
would take 10 minutes
can stretch up to two
hours, thanks to
gridlocks. In one city, you can
arrive home at 3am
without the fear of
being mugged while in
the other, danger lurks
behind every bush and, increasingly these days,
with the boda bodas
near you. In order, cleanliness and
safety, Kigali is where
Nairobi used to be in
the 1960s and early 70s
— before it was taken
over by buccaneers known as kanjuras. Like
locusts, they ate,
leaving in their wake
bare earth. Page 1 of 2  Next.
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