We Are Playing With Fire

It is difficult to be optimistic about the bright future when the country biggest airport goes ablaze and the most we can do is stare helplessly. Bright in our case conjures up the image of huge flames burning out of control in the distance. When the arrivals unit of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) airport caught fire last week, I was not surprised by the response. The signs were all there for us to see. The ridiculous tussle for the duty free shops, the stinking toilets that had no water, poorly lit corridors and just a few days before the fire, there was a jet fuel shortage that had athletes headed to Moscow delayed for hours.

The fire broke out before 5am and three hours later, it was still raging mostly because the fire hydrants were out of water. It read like bad joke. We are pretty fortunate that no passengers or airport staff suffered causalities or died and everyone near the scene scampered to safety.  The fire was detected by an airport official who noticed smoke billowing from the terminal. We could conclude that the nameless individual turned to be the only functioning ‘fire detector”. The brigade was called but they were ineffective because the water pressure was inadequate. Army personnel were photographed sprinting back and forth with buckets of water. Might as well have called in the Navy. The situation could not have been more desperate.

The head of security at the Kenya Airports Authority Eric Kiraithe was quoted by the dailies saying, “By our own standards this is so big”. You would think JKIA was bombed. I suppose like most Kenya tragedies, it will be blamed on an ‘electric fault”.  JKIA really has no standards. We now have to brace ourselves for the embarrassment of a burnout arrival terminal and as we pave way for investigations. It won’t be long before a commission is set up and the usual pledge to leave no stone unturned will be made. We have been through this rant of disaster preparedness for too long. For the ordinary Kenyan, fire tragedies have become normalized much like the road carnage and economic sabotage by the political elite.

I guess out here, where there is smoke, we quickly run in to stock the fire. Only one month ago, the Kenya National Brigades Association (Kenfiba) sounded the siren. The gist of the statement was that fire engines, taxpayers property were disposed of like stale cake. We were treated to an even more demeaning expose and an example of classic systemic greed. Three fire engines were auctioned after the council failed to settle a bill of kshs 7, 400. Another engine was sold after failure to settle a bill of kshs 29, 660.  The Nairobi governor Evans Kidero admitted that the situation was dire and as expected a promise was made, in essence that the county government would be receiving donations from various well wishers. Obviously disaster does not seek appointment. Nothing was done and after the fire at JKIA, we expect the usual plea for divine intervention. “This is not the time to blame one another. We need to come together as Kenyans and pray for our Country”.

A series of measures will be announced which will amount to nothing. A scapegoat will be arraigned; probably Kamlesh Pattni and counter accusations will feature in the news cycle until the next big news item shifts our attention to the pressing matter of the day. The siren has been sounded, there is a fire in the distance and no one is running.


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Ipsos Synovate courtesy of their public affairs arm released a poll that left relationship skeptics disturbed. The stats basically revealed one thing that is already in public knowledge. Marital infidelity is now a national past time. Typically, in cases of infidelity, the person at the receiving end of the cheating game is always the last person in the know. Your wife could literally be playing right under your nose but guys are generally too slow or arrogant to read the signs. Women are lot smarter at hiding their tracks. They think through the options, meticulously plan their strategies and erase all evidence that they could be anything less than a loving and faithful spouse.  A woman only reveals that she is playing the field, when she achieves a secure position and is no longer bothered by the consequences of discovery.

Men on the other hand only have one strategy, the away game. If the affair is conducted away from the house it will not be detected, so the man thinks. But since we only have enough blood to run one brain at a time, the thinking is never that thorough. We forget to prepare an alibi, leaving evidence strewn all over the place and all the wife has to do is call her hubbies’ close friend who will blubber out such an outrageous lie, he ends up implicating you.

Fidelity is no longer just the husband’s toughest test. Women are struggling as much with the notion of sexual exclusivity. Marital boredom and fatigue is spiced up by the on-off affair and the fear and guilt of discovery gives it that adrenaline rush that lures couples back for more. Which must be why, most married couples are secretly enjoying an MBA status. We are all happily married but available for play.

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Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan newspaper columnist. The blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

    I can’t agree more with you, there seems to be some forth-coming doom for Kenya. Our leaders must act fast, our national fabric is torn; our humanity is under threat with so much killings and insecurity. Tough economic times are ogling at us in the near distance.

    Methinks we are at the verge of a precipice. We must act fast and quick to save the face of Kenya, our heritage. Twill be a shame for our fore-fathers to wake up from the dead and find all their labor to unite this country and save it from the colonialists all gone down the drain.

    Am ashamed to be Kenyan, sometimes!

  2. d.kabutei

    A collection of
    two or more events
    closely related by time, space, form,
    or other associations which appear
    unlikely to bear a relationship to the observer-my defination of ‘coincidence’

    The chain of events at JKIA before the fire would easily pass as a strange coincidence but leaves much to speculation!! First the demolation of duty free shops, then shortage of jet fuel and finally the fire. COINCIDENTALLY, the fire hydrants of the best fire fighting department in the country were out of water when the fire broke out!! C’mon, how cinvinient?
    My take on this mystery is, the events were diversions to a conspiracy that only Mohammed Ali would leave no stone unturned.

  3. A preacher flying from Cayman Islands, who was stranded in Amsterdam, courtesy of the fire, could not believe that an airport was ‘burning down’. “Airports don’t burn down”. He told the congregation that I was attending. Houses burn down, anything, but not airports. He actually believed it when he arrived here.

    I have to accept that there is something inexplicably wrong with Africans. Especially, the educated ones who have schooled out there and knows how things should run. The difference between a technocrat and an average city kanjo, is basically the language. One speaks broken English, the other is fluent, but just as messed up.

    • Kenyans are all the same, replace all the kanjo with a seemingly decent lot and they behave the same. Its the environment that gives the illusion of civility in others and uncouthness in the other. Otherwise I have observed that in all of them , personal consideration overrides the good of all. The way the parking attendant squeezes money from motorists is the same way the so called cultured person given to head a corporation will squeeze money out of the entity. We are so gone, we delude ourselves that one is better than the other. I pity a Kenyan pouring vitriol on another Kenyan because they are corrupt or inept. Are those Kenyans who pulled down Uchumi, KBS or other state corporations while enriching there pockets any better than a city Kanjo?

  4. Eddy Nyachwaya

    Is it too early to judge Mr.Kidero?
    errrrr..HELL NO!! I started judging him the moment he was declared governor & will continue doing so till he’s gone.he’s yet to ‘wow’ me in any way & it’s pissing me off big time.

    Anyway,you know those movies that start with “inspired by real(or true) events”,i bet we can make around 10 proper blockbusters movies courtesy of assasinations,botched election,election violence,tragedies,political conspiracies et al that have happened in the last 10 years….my pick would be the Artur brothers’ saga.i’m still feel ashamed when i remember it.what’d yours be Oyunga?

  5. Kenya Reinsurance Managing Director Jadiah Mwarania said the company is ready to pay insurance firms for the fire damage that gutted east Africa’s busiest airport last Wednesday, but he did not know how much that would hurt future profits.

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