The Paradox Of Purity: Nairobi’s River Of Refuse And The Mirror Of Blame

By Steve Biko Wafula / Published February 15, 2024 | 4:53 pm



Nairobi River

In the heart of Nairobi, where the river once meandered with the grace of a Chinese silk ribbon, a new landscape has taken shape. A testament not to nature’s artistry, but to human neglect – a river drowning under the weight of litter. The citizens, in a display of collective amnesia, seem to have forgotten that, as the proverb goes, “A man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man doing it.” Yet here we stand, a nation interrupted, a mission abandoned, and a river gasping for air.

It’s become a custom as common as the morning sun’s rise, where Kenyans step over the remnants of yesterday’s consumption, eyes averted as if the act of looking away absolves one of complicity. The streets are adorned with plastics and debris, a modern mosaic of carelessness. “It is easy to dodge a spear that comes in front of you but hard to avoid an arrow shot from behind.” The spear of environmental responsibility was dodged, and now the arrow of consequence finds its mark.

When the rains come, as they do, with the insistence of a creditor, the streets flood, and the sewages rebel against the onslaught of waste. “When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.” The Kenyans, however, built neither; they merely pointed fingers as the floodwaters rose, forgetting that when one points a finger, three points back at them.

Houses are submerged, dreams are drenched, and lives are swept away in torrential negligence. Yet, the outcry is always directed outward, never inward. “He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey. He who blames himself is halfway there. He who blames no one has arrived.” The Kenyan journey, it seems, has scarcely begun.

Drought follows the deluge as surely as night follows day. The land cracks, the crops wither, and the people look to the sky – empty, save for the accusing glare of the sun. “When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.” Yet, when it comes to weeding out the roots of environmental degradation, the Kenyan grip loosens, and nothing is uprooted.

In this narrative, the protagonist is a collective conscience who seems to be on an eternal sabbatical. The chorus of “It’s not my responsibility” rings louder than the calls of the vendors in the bustling markets. “Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still.” But stand still we have, amid our own making, a monument to inertia.

Nairobi River

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The council of leaders convenes, speeches are made, and promises are as plentiful as the stars in the African sky. But as the proverb warns, “Talk does not cook rice.” The people listen, nod, and continue on their way, leaving behind them a trail of unkept promises and uncollected rubbish.

It is said, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” But who will help Nairobi’s river, the silent victim of a thousand unhelpful hands? For the river’s happiness has been stolen not in hours but in years, and its lifetime of purity is now a distant memory, clouded by the refuse of a society that has yet to wake from its slumber of irresponsibility.

Read Also: Tackling Pollution in Nairobi River: The Role of Extended Producer Responsibility And Community Engagement




About Steve Biko Wafula

Steve Biko is the CEO OF Soko Directory and the founder of Hidalgo Group of Companies. Steve is currently developing his career in law, finance, entrepreneurship and digital consultancy; and has been implementing consultancy assignments for client organizations comprising of trainings besides capacity building in entrepreneurial matters.He can be reached on: +254 20 510 1124 or Email: info@sokodirectory.com

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