Much has changed in Nairobi since we were last here in 2003. Shopping Malls have sprung fully formed from the red clay. My favorite restaurant, Nairobi Java House is no longer one – but five. The children of friends – taller, smarter, wiser. The streets are a little cleaner. The Matatus (private mini-buses that swarm like veldt locusts) are only filled to capacity – one bottom per seat. Unlike the 22 people that used to cram into seats for 12. Road deaths are down by 70%.
Some things are the same. The police corrupt – looking for bribes to supplant their meager income. Criminals more daring – you don’t want to drive a nice vehicle – it will be taken at gunpoint as you wait too long for the barbwired gates to open onto your driveway. Government, once hopeless, then hopefilled, descends into hopelessness again. Senior government officials are named daily in Newspaper corruption stories, but their lives go on.
I love Kenya and hope to spend a longer amount of time here in the future. But just as the son rises daily around 6:30 AM and sets twelve hours later, year in and year out, Kenya appears locked in a stagnant cycle. At one end, things seem to improve – at the other, they just get worse.
A friend of mine, a Kenyan native, told me on Monday that the only way real change will take place is when the people have had enough. When they no longer pay the bribes, vote for the corrupt or stand by while the weak are downtrodden. I pray that day comes soon. (And that it won’t take a man like Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings to accomplish it.)