Coastweek -- Continuing
on the theme of loos from last week, the matter in Nairobi is
yet to be fully concluded but it seems that the private
operators of the toilet facilities in Nairobi have been given a
temporary reprieve as the Governor retreats to re-strategise how
he can take over the facilities and probably re-allocate them to
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
That is how cynical
Kenyans have become.
We do not believe
that any politician will be up to any good if they repossess a
facility by decree in the name of the public without showing us
what it is they intend to do with it BEFORE they repossess.
The sad truth is
that many of the people surrounding the public leadership in
this country are there for what they can get out of their
proximity to the centre and not for what they can offer the
leader in terms of advice and service in the name of returns to
Even the County
Executives (who prefer to be called Ministers!) may have been in
it for the right reasons in the first place but they quickly
fall into bad ways due to the temptations that come with the
territory and soon begin to take a little for themselves.
This quickly grows
into demanding cuts in everything that they approve.
This is not to say
that all are bad but the reality is that the taking of cuts or
demanding bribes is a cancer that is well established and
consumes even the hardiest of the new crop of public leaders.
Our focus this week
will be on the lack of public facilities for the burgeoning
populations of the various cities and towns.
If one just takes
the Central Business Districts (or CBD) in both Mombasa and
Nairobi and one tries to find toilets or smoking places, one
would struggle to find one easily.
This struggle is
replicated in most urban areas across the country.
Even with the
addition of opportunities for private operators of the
facilities, they are still difficult to find.
They tend to be
where it is perceived there will be high demand such as in the
However, a person
who is in the CBD has to really look to find a toilet.
First, there are
very few and they are far between and secondly there are simply
no sign posts anywhere directing people to the nearest ablution
It is bad enough for
pedestrians but one should really pity the poor motorist who
wants to answer the call of nature.
One has to first
look around to find out where there is a facility.
I searched on Google
maps using the words nearest toilet both in Nairobi and Mombasa
and was pleasantly surprised by the large number that appeared
on the map.
I was looking for
facilities within five kilometres of my location.
Almost all that
show-ed up on this search were hotels!
It meant that for
most motorists, the quickest way to have a wee or a pooh in the
city centre is to find your way to a hotel and hope that they
will allow a “walk in” to use their facilities and free of
charge at that.
Navigating past the
askari at the gate who is always inquisitive about what one
wants to do is the first hurdle.
Finding it quickly
is the next.
Many a time I have
witnessed people wet themselves in a building as they
desperately try to find the washrooms as they are too pressed to
pass by the reception and ask – though that would be the
I refined my search
and looked for public toilets and lo and behold, Google maps
However, just like
in the case of city hotels, the first obstacle to using the
facilities is to find suitable parking close by the public
Most of them are
located with pedestrians in mind – not motorists.
So just like in the
case of hotels, one can find the facility quickly enough using
Google maps but then the time spent looking for parking may
result in the driver wetting their clothes in the process.
Passengers can at
least be dropped off.
I have witnessed
several occasions where a driver puts on the hazards long before
they reach where a public toilet is located and they then stop
the car near the kerb, jump out quickly, close the door and lock
with the remote as they run towards the public facility only to
be stopped that they must pay before they enter and they end up
either barging their way through if the infrastructure is such
that you can do so.
If there is a
turnstile that can only open when payment has been made then
what I have witnessed is very embarrassing accident happening at
the entrance to the facility.
It is time that the
County Governments across the country develop a standard formula
for determining the location and numbers of such facilities
based on population density and also convenience.
should then be located at places where one can park for the
duration of their visit to the facility up to a maximum of say
ten minutes (for those with ‘Delhi bellies’) and the usage fee
should include a small amount of money to take care of
maintaining that parking.
should be clearly sign posted or even better, painted a
distinctive colour or colour scheme that allows one to recognise
the facility from a mile in any urban centre.
Regular use and
pinning by users will quickly put the facility into Google maps
so that one can find them easily.
We look forward to
positive vibes coming out on the issue of toilets instead of the
negatives we are getting from Nairobi.
and some little degree of innovation will create better
relationships between the county governments and the county’s
If the political
class want to be re-elected then the easiest way is to get to
the hearts and stomachs of their voters.
As Kachumbari says,
a person desperate for a pee or pooh is not a pretty sight to
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