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Have Nairobi County by-laws lapsed?

The average Nairobian has at one time or the other received a distress call either from a family member or friend, asking for a bailout after either being arrested County askaris for flouting some city bylaw.

But for those who’ve never had such an experience, those jalopies of mangled and wire meshed Nairobi County vans parked along the pavements must an all too familiar sight.

Most of the times these rickety automobiles are crammed with people unfortunate to find themselves on the wrong side of the city bylaws.

Woe unto you if you are the unlucky fellow arrested by the County askari. These braggarts will often waste your time by driving you around the CBD picking more “passengers” along the way to no destination in particular.

Several hours later they offer you a lifeline – a small fee to part away with for you to secure your freedom. For those unwilling or unable to produce kitu kidogo things tend to get thick pretty fast; a hearing of the case before a “County Court” comes 24 hours later.

The irony is that the County officers who arrested you rarely show up in court to testify. Most cases which come before the county court often end up being dismissed for lack of evidence or for lack of witnesses.

Nairobi County askaris bundle a man into their van along a city street. PHOTO | DAILY NATION
Nairobi County askaris bundle a man into their van along a city street. PHOTO | DAILY NATION


Which in itself defeats the purpose of the County bylaws, which are in themselves are very well-thought and noble ideas.

There used to be a time when you could not see a person crossing the road while on their phones or the loud matatu makangas that are a commonplace in the city. Those good old days are long gone.

The bylaws now only exist by name as city residents flout them with impunity; it seems Nairobians simply can’t stop texting or talking on their phones when driving or crossing the roads. Matutu touts on their parts will push and pull you to get you in their matatus while screaming at the top of their voices.

While the county ‘police’ will occasionally conduct an impromptu opportunistic swoop and net a few unsuspecting offenders, their real motivation is always to extort their victims as opposed to enforcing the bylaws.

The only city bylaw which seems to have worked in Nairobi is the one which prohibits smoking public places. In a sense, for the last few years Nairobi has become a non-smoking city. From the time the bylaw was introduced, smokers in Nairobi have been compelled to satisfy their craving for tobacco only in designated smoking zones.

So what become of the once dreaded city bylaws?

That’s a question only the City Fathers, led by one Dr Evans Kidero, can answer.