The Keter Saga: Why You Should Be Worried

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January 27, 2015

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Photo credit: Daily Nation

If the #NgiluSinghJokes trend on Twitter is anything to go by, Kenyans are big fans of drama, especially when said drama involves prominent personalities. The gods of satire-worthy antics therefore smiled upon us this weekend, when Kenya woke up to a frankly embarrassing video of Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter berating guards at the Gilgil weigh-bridge The video shows Keter and nominated MP Sunjeev Kaur Birdi (Sonia Birdi) attempt to get MP Birdi’s truck, whose origins and contents are as yet unknown, released from the custody of said officers where it was being held for weight violations under the Kenya National Highways Authority regulations.

“Honorable” Keter has since come out to deny the context of the video, stating that the officers had demanded a bribe to begin with, leading to the emotional reaction that saw the video go viral. And go viral it did: featuring such choice quotable as, to paraphrase, “We make the laws and can break them when we want” said in response to the officers’ explanation that they were merely following the law. Further, threats were made against the officers and their superiors (“Tell your boss he is stupid”) as well as relatives (threats were made alluding that someone’s mysterious brother would lose an unspecified tender). There were also a number of statements far too… colorful to publish in print. The video can, naturally, be found online for your viewing horror or pleasure here.

The video also shows MP Keter reference a number of powerful higher ups in a Nancy Baraza-esque name dropping tirade, implying that he was acting on the authority of these persons and defying him/them would have far reaching consequences. This comes mere days after the Weston Hotel land grabbing saga, in which ownership of the hotel, and therefore responsibility for the blatant attempt at taking over public land was hotly contested; leading to some circles pointing fingers at shadowy figures in seats of power. In spite of the Lands Cabinet Secretary naming the owners as registered in government records, speculation abounds that the infamous Singhs were covers for or, working with the blessing of more influential parties.

Kenyan reactions to both these events has been polarized, as expected. With activists putting their safety at risk to protect the Lang’ata Primary School playground lands from the greedy hands at Weston Hotel, to “celebrities” protesting the protesters, responses to the Keter incident have been a bit more unified. Most have called for at least an investigation on the events leading up to the taped confrontation, with many calling for swift and commensurate punitive action against the politicians.

Photo credit: Kevin Rothwell / Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Kevin Rothwell / Wikimedia Commons

For us in the logistics industry, our concerns are largely the same. First, the issue of the truck impounded at the weigh-bridge has a direct impact on those of us participating in the freighting facet of supply chain management. If the truck indeed was justly restricted due to violation of regulations, we rejoice: Kenya National Highways guidelines and laws are put in place to protect us as well as the Kenyan infrastructure . Adhering to the rule of law, and knowing that Kenyan police officers are willing to remain dedicated to maintaining what is right even in the face of intimidation is a positive sign for us as a country and as logistics participants. If, on the other hand, the truck was wrongfully detained on trumped up charges and newly invented permit needs as MPs Birdi & Keter have alleged, then we have much to worry about: if individuals with the clout and social capital of our very own lawmakers can not get the system to work as it was intended to, then what chance do we as ordinary citizens?

Whichever side was wrong, the implications are depressing: either those we chose to lead us have blatantly abused their power, or those that govern us on a day to day basis operate in corruption with impunity. As we watch this fiasco unfold, we await results of the investigations commissioned by Acting Inspector General Karachi and hope that indeed, the failure was on the side of the lawmakers, and not the systems and law enforcers we rely on to keep our country and industry running. Who do you think will be declared innocent?


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