Key causes of buildings collapse are impunity, greed

Monday, November 21st, 2022 07:00 | By
Key causes of buildings collapse are impunity, greed
Rescuers attend the scene of a building collapse in Ruaka, on the outskirts of the capital Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. PHOTO/AFP

The unfortunate incidents of the buildings collapse has become common occurrences in the country. When this happens, the blame game would start immediately.

For the top government entrusted with ensuring the construction of these buildings met all the legal requirements, this will provide them with an opportunity to particularly hit out at the developers and engineers.

This is in addition to consoling the bereaved families while assuring them and the nation that the culprits will face the full force of law. To achieve this, we are working closely with the police and directorate of criminal investigation [DCI].

When arraigned in court, they will face several counts including the capital offence of murder. 

However, this tough talk will only last for only a few days. This is during the period of mourning until when the victims are buried.  Many would interpret this as a well calculated strategy to manage public anger.

For me, I had lived to see buildings collapsing during the reigns of presidents Daniel Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta. In some cases, the outcome was devastating and heart-breaking. Many people would lose their lives. Is it that we have not learnt any lessons? My answer is a big No. Greed and Impunity is the root cause.

For the buildings under construction, the workers and people living adjacent to these buildings would suffer the biggest casualties. Some of the survivors would be left nursing severe injuries for the rest of their lives.  For now, we are mourning the death of eight people who perished after the collapse of two storey buildings in Ruaka, Kiambu, and Season area of Kasarani in Nairobi. Some were buried alive by rabbles and others succumbed after being hit by the falling stones and other debris.

The testimonies of those who witnessed these incidents were shocking. In the Ruaka incident, a son of the couple that perished, narrated, “This building had been condemned because of poor workmanship”.

As a result, the county of Kiambu had served the owner with numerous notices to demolish it but this would fall on deaf ears. The construction continued. Why?  The owner had allegedly compromised the officers at the land, housing, physical planning office. He allegedly offered them hefty bribes whenever they visited the site.  “My father had made several visits to Kiambu County office to lodge these complaints but they would not take any action. Instead, the officers would take advantage of the visits to extort more bribes. Besides the danger that this building posed, the other complaint would be. The owner had encroached on the plot belonging to my father,, “ he further narrated. 

Listening to this, the actions of the owner would demonstrate a high level of impunity. He or she was untouchable. Otherwise, how would you describe a person who disregarded the law in totality and no legal action is taken against him?

With this, it is hard to convince anyone that these officers’ bosses and even the Office of the Governor were not the aware that this building was still under construction. Given its proximity to Nairobi Rwaka is an ideal area for the middle class investing in the real estate. This explains why it is growing fast.

Given its potential, this is an area that would always draw the attention of the county government for various reasons. For the revenue department, this is a cash cow.

So, many believe the top officials had seen this five-story building. They would however bother to find out whether it is the one that had been condemned. If yes, why was it being constructed? This could have led to the immediate dismissal of the field officers.

There were rumors that the top officials may have received part of the bribes, a lion share. I would not want to imagine this. 

— Joseph Ndonga is a political commentator based in Nairobi

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