marvels of engineering wastefulness

I am all for pedestrians have safe footbridges across busy road sections. But this is one of those occasions I would use the road to cross the footbridge. It does look like a monumental waste of resources. Speed bumps, in my view would solve the problem for this small market centre.

This is an over kill

Where you live, do you pay to use the toilets? It is important that you do. You see that money has many uses.

Cost sharing for better services

And finally, good and clean toilets are key to nation building. Who knew?

Clean toilets for national success

Short stories from Mogadishu

Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, where I am doing some extensions with Unicef, is a mother child hospital where all services are free.

I rode the bus and tuk tuk(tricycle) van from the airport to site. Mogadishu has a road drainage problem. Road was effing flooded.

The flight attendants in the return flight from Mogadishu are think are not properly motivated by the company. They didn’t bother with regular announcements. The flight was smooth though.

That’s all for this trip.

Stories from Mogadishu

In the last few months, my most interesting experiences have had to do with Somalia. For most people, interesting would not be used to describe Somalia. Maybe I have a dry sense of humour or I need interesting things in my life since I find Somalia quite interesting.

You see, I was back again in Mogadishu and for some reason the guys at immigration were not sure I should be allowed in and took two hours to make this decision. And even then, forgot to stamp my passport and so for about 30 minutes, I was an undocumented alien in Mogadishu.

The insecurity situation in Somalia should end. We spent two days in Mogadishu because we couldn’t find a flight that would take us 90km out. A 18 fucking minutes flight. Next time I will strike a deal with AMISOM to give me a ride in their tanks. Keep it here for future stories.

So we were in this plane where I think the wear a seatbelt is a mockery. Either there were no seatbelts or there were many of us and so no one bothered with them. Good interesting life..

What I find annoying is dealing with uncertainty. And no, it has nothing to do with security. I have before mentioned their concept of time. So imagine a situation when you can’t tell that a scheduled flight will actually be available. I was in a situation like this for two days and eventually flew to a beautiful green town which was wet and hot or is it hot and wet.

Anyway, I am back to NBI, where unless the clueless governor does something stupid, which is his wont, then life is pretty much regular.

It was a great safari

Narrator: Hadithi hadithi

Audience: Hadithi njoo

Narrator: Paukwa

Audience: Pakawa

Narrator: Maziwa

Audience: Ya watoto wa nyayo

Narrator: Kiboko

Audience: ya watoto wakorofi

Hapo zamani za kale, paliishi…. no, but I get ahead of myself.

I want to tell you a story of my recent safari to Puntland, Federal Republic of Somalia. And as good stories go, they must have a beginning. What I am not promising you is to be a good story teller, I am a good listener, not talker and definitely not a writer. If it were that it was writing that was standing between me and my killer, they stand a chance of winning, but that’s a story of another day.

The story begins at JKIA (code for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport- I think they should rename it to something friendly like Mak Airport). Where else would it start. It is possible that two cultures can exist side by side without affecting the other. And I think this is true for some of the airlines that fly to Somali because how do you explain paying for two seats, arriving early at the check in counters only to be told, no my friends (in Trevor Noah accent) there is no seat for one of you. And they are not joking. Our story ends here 😦

Since I am telling you a story about Puntland, you must have already surmised that we traveled without a hitch.

Our layover at Mogadishu was short and uneventful. Those of us who were proceeding to Garowe were checked in to our connecting flight while standing in the hot sun in the air side of the airport. Landing at Garowe is almost a culture shock of sorts. The runway is murram, though the landing is quite smooth. Their passenger terminal, if we can call it that is as good as non existent. The immigration desk, well, the little said about it the better and safer too, because you see, I must return to this beautiful country, maybe even settle.

I want to believe there was a welcoming troupe at the airport assembled just for me. No, they didn’t talk to me. Didn’t even notice me. I think we had traveled with a famous person who was to be received with pomp and flair. When this story is retold, it must be emphasized they were at the airport to meet me.

Garowe is a beautiful town. I think Nairobi could learn a few tips from them. Government offices are conveniently located out of the CBD but walking or taxi distance, well it still a small town, but there is a thought there. It is quiet, peaceful and would do with a breeze especially during the afternoons. But it is also a strange place. Yours truly went to a bank, a bank my people, to get dollars and the lady who I found there looked at me as you would an alien and said something to the effect they don’t trade forex. I am hoping, to her advantage, that she didn’t understand me.

If there is a diabetes capital of the world, it must be Puntland and the greater Somalia. My request for white tea no sugar was always met with very astonished looks. And whenever I was so unlucky to find myself in places where such luxuries were unavailable, they served you sugar that had some tea. The camel meat was however great and the fish at Eyl was delicious. It’s a paradox that they take so little salt believing, I think, that salt is not good. If they could, they would add sugar to the meat.

It is driving through Puntland, in Mudug and Nugaal districts that was the greatest joy. In the open grassland, almost desert like, every tree or shrub that was tall enough stood majestically as if marking and watching over its territory. One felt someone had planted them at those regular intervals to mark their place. They almost demanded your respect. At the same time, it felt like it was a flat earther’s paradise. Everywhere, well, almost everywhere you looked around you was flat. There were a few interruptions though. A small hill here and another there but perhaps the majestic cover of the blue cloudless sky that delineated our existential space.

I talk of driving in Puntland and your imagination drives you, I know, I can see it to think of road, long and winding tarmac. We would have give quite a lot even to have murram road. Our drivers, oh goodness, they were good, drove mostly by instinct. It felt like hunting squirrel and following their trail. That we didn’t get lost severally is still a wonder to me. On one of the days, darkness caught up with us or we caught up with it. One can’t be too sure of these things. And so, just like sea men hoping to see a lighthouse, we- this might just mean me- looked forward to any lights emanating from a small town as a sign that we were not totally lost.

We were in Garacad, a former pirates town or port. Or so our host said. It is a paradox that the people in the town abandoned hotels they suspect were built with proceeds from piracy because that’s haram.

We were in Galcayo where I think we were the only people without guns. Everyone seemed to have one. Maybe that’s how they know how to feel safe. I thought of getting one for myself but didn’t complete the thought. You see I am a pacifist and I don’t hunt. My only motivation to have a gun would be to take a life. I don’t think I am ready for that yet. I would reconsider if I met any one of our thieving political class and their tenderprenuer relathieves. About that, another day.

I said we didn’t get lost. I lied it. We did, it was only once and it was for the best I think. Maybe I am even glad we did get lost. We had driven almost the whole day. We were to go to Tawfiq a district that from all I gathered, is working on breaking off from Puntland and they said it wasn’t quite safe. We joked about it. We said maybe Al Shabaab lived there. But it was all jokes, you see and that is why I am happy we didn’t go. But that is where happiness ended or maybe it didn’t.

It has been raining in Puntland last several weeks or months, I can’t tell. And so with the nature of the roads, one is bound once in a while to find themselves in the thick of it. It happened to us too. It was under a quiet, dark, moonlight sky that our lead vehicle got stuck in mud. It was also ten pm. It was a silent night. I am not sure it was holy. But here we were, enveloped in darkness in the middle of nowhere. We tried to get the car unstuck for a while and when it continued to sink in the soft ground, that project was abandoned. We were going to sleep in the middle of nowhere. We were 8 of us. We had 2 cars. To say we didn’t sleep peacefully would be an understatement. Some slept outside the cars and some slept in the cars but we all slept. And when we woke up, all of us seemed to have been well rested. It was better than some of the places we had slept in.

And finally we went to Eyl, a paradise in the midst of ruins, two beautiful villages tucked in between mountain ranges or should I call them hills and valleys. I missed my bicycle. I would have loved to cycle in Eyl. The roads meander and turn sharply. The slopes stand there daring you to go to them.

Our politicians in Nairobi are a ridiculous lot. Most times when they head to the toilet, the path must be cleared of mortals and VVIP toilet installed somewhere. I think they shit gold. The president for Puntland state was meeting some dignitaries, I suppose, at the restaurant hotel where we stayed and between us and him was a short hedge. For all intents and purposes, we were oblivious to his presence. I want such a life as a public representative.

When one has lived in Nairobi following the juala ban, one becomes almost nostalgic at the site of juala everywhere and the convenience it brings. And for a long moment as I packed my small baggage I thought about carrying juala if only to piss off the migration officials in Nairobi. Maybe next time I will act on it. Our lives have been ruined without juala.

They said to understand the value of a minute talk to an athlete. What they didn’t say is to lose any attachment to time and live every moment as it comes, visit Somalia, a land where time stops.

In Kenya we really were totally colonized. Each of us, and yours truly, for shame, compete in how well we can speak in English. Mara grammar mara lexicon mara punctuation. One comes to Somalia and they are proudly Somali. Either learn Somali or talk to the birds. I want to believe the Somalis have been unfairly treated among us but they should be an inspiration to us. That while we acknowledge the brutal years of the colonizer, we can maintain our languages and what remains of our cultures. Whoever wants to do business with us should learn our vernacular or ship out.

In all, it was an interesting trip. I decided that you will read this and look at the photos and match up the stories.

See you when I am back in Nairobi or at any rate, I could be back already.

from Mogadishu with love

First, a disclaimer. I am not a story teller. That position is held by the likes of Tish and Ark. I don’t think it is even possible to train me to be a story teller. The saying you cannot teach an old dog new tricks must have been said with me in mind. And so, I own that saying. Having made the above declaration, we can now go ahead with my retelling of my trip to Mogadishu.

The airline we flew to Mogadishu, must, as was observed by my colleague, have a contract with a funeral home. We flew an EMB 120, which felt and looked liked it was the first to be made for commercial flights and when the many owners got tired of operating it, African Express discovered in a plane junkyard and put it back together. However, to their credit, the crew managed to take us smoothly to Somalia. I slept most of the trip and when I was not sleeping, I was reading or eating or drinking something.

There was no incident at immigration, thank goodness.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for $150 in Kenya, a taxi could take you for a journey across counties, say Nairobi to Nakuru and back and if you were to hire a car, that would be sufficient for two day hire and fuel to and fro Kisumu. And if it is one of these Toyota cars that flood our market that seem to only smell fuel, you could save some money for simple accommodation on the way. If you are in Mogadishu, that’t the fare from the airport to a hotel 300m away, no kidding.

That’s the boring part. The interesting part is we were picked up in an armored car, with an outrider and chase car. At the hotel, we had the option of wearing bullet proof vests, an opportunity I let pass. They looked too heavy, the heat quite a lot and I don’t think there was anyone who would want to kidnap a broke ass Kenyan who the government may not even miss. So we drove through backstreets and main roads like we owned the place, a feeling I am yet to place. Sometimes they even drove on the wrong side of the road if traffic was slow, it felt like being VIP, or maybe they were trying to justify the $1200 fee we were going to pay at the end.

For $150 a night hotel, we got cold showers. There was the option for no water in the room, though my friend refused that and had to be moved to a smaller room. While I had water, the amount paid meant the shower does no drain. I didn’t ask if there were additional charges for working sanitary fittings, maybe for the next trip.

I think electrical engineers and electricians in Mogadishu need a few lessons on how hotel guests use rooms. For $150, I want a bedside lamp, a ceiling rose not a fluorescent light bulb.

To their credit, they serve very good tea. Their breakfast is hopeless, I mean, really hopeless.

For this trip, I will not mention the two times my bag was searched by a dog, first as you enter the terminal and second in the departure lounge just before boarding. It’s called not taking chances with your security.

A travel report is not complete without pictures, or as they say in our cycling group, if it is not on strava, it didn’t happen.

and you can see the communication tower at the airport from the hotel

beautiful blue sky from the hotel rooftop

for $150 we spell the way we want

how else do you know you are safe? the key and all spares to the main door are seen here hanging

my $150 room

in other places, the hotel gives you one key and a tag with your room number, in other places, they give you all the keys!

it was time to return to Nbi

When he works out of town

As you may all have heard, there was a violent raid in one of the towns in the coastal region where quite a number were killed, houses and business property destroyed among others. I hear the HMS have claimed responsibility. I don’t know, especially since I don’t watch news.

Politicians, religious leaders and anyone who can say anything has been quick to condemn the attacks. Others have called for the sacking of security chiefs for sleeping on the job. I think the only reasonable thing that has so far been done is to condemn the beastly act. Beyond that, all the other things being said is just noise.

You do not expect a people who have been marginalized by all the governments we have had since self rule to really be concerned by issues national when residents don’t have title deeds to lots and others from elsewhere have.

It is insane that for me to get to Marsabit, a place not so far from Nairobi, I have to hire police escort or I will never arrive their in one piece. What kind of government allows that to happen? Why do people act like such things are not important? Why are they quick to cry foul when such an attack takes place not realizing that security is a function of a healthy society. A society where the majority, as much as is humanly practicable, have access to a decent living is a healthy one. Such a society is in no need of jailhouses and police outposts. How long will it take the noise makers to realize that deploying more police officers without tackling poverty, unemployment, ignorance will result in naught.

I condole those families that lost their loved ones but hold each member of our society responsible. We elected clowns who are clueless about what is happening in the country. The clowns have appointed sillier clowns to run government agencies. They open their mouth to replace their feet. Nothing intelligent comes out of those foul mouths.

If anything security-wise is to change, the country must start not to invest in a bigger police force but in a healthy and equitable society. This is the challenge which am not holding my breath to see a politician come up with.