Editor’s Memo

A mayoral speech at the Africities Summit


Vincent Kahiya


Nairobi, September 26 – LADIES and gentlemen, we gather here in Nairobi to share ideas and experiences on how to improve our cities which are the cornerstones of development on the continent

. As mayor of the capital city of a country struggling under illegal sanctions from the West, I would like to congratulate the organisers of this conference for bringing together African local government authorities to brainstorm and solve their own problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, my city was once called the Sunshine City before illegal sanctions were imposed by countries which are opposed to our land reform programme.  By the way, I am a beneficiary of this programme. To show my commitment to farming, I have successfully employed council manpower and equipment on the farm. Remember cities have a crucial role in rural development.

I am sure you will excuse this small diversion. I have this passion for farming and my heart bleeds when I see other countries failing to correct this colonial legacy.

Back to the issue of sanctions, the city of Munich in Germany which was twinned to my city in the 1980s severed ties with us.  They have cut technical and financial assistance over a small political issue regarding an opposition mayor whom they supported.

The mayor was fired by my Minister of Local Government in 2003 after a disastrous stint during which he only managed to tar a few roads and clean the park. Being deputy mayor at the time and also belonging to same party with the disgraced mayor, I was duly appointed acting mayor. I then ditched the opposition party and joined my minister’s party. He dissolved the council and appointed a commission in 2004 which I am currently chairing.

This brief background is important, ladies and gentlemen, to illustrate that elected councils are not always the best to run major cities, especially when the opposition wins polls. Local authorities work much better when they are operated by governments through commissions like the one I currently chair. To demonstrate the efficiency of my commission, my minister has renewed my tenure as an unelected local authority head a record four times.

Despite a few problems emanating from the town clerk who is refusing to be fired, the city has made great strides under a difficult environment. I cannot say much about the issue because it is sub-judice.  May I remind you that the illegal sanctions are our major drawback. But our people have over the years slowly accepted the sad adversities emanating from these sanctions. They have learnt to live without running water, they are coping well with uncollected rubbish and a sewerage system working in reverse.

But we have not let areas dry out completely. Fire tenders are always on standby to deliver emergency water to desperate cases, especially senior council officials who can’t appear in public without a bath. (Pause, audience should laugh)
Ladies and gentlemen, you might be aware that the Sadc region is facing a critical power shortage which is likely to get worse in the next few years. We have already started to conserve power by not repairing and replacing street lights. It is amazing how much electricity we are conserving through this exercise.

Despite these small set backs, my commission is committed to achieving Millennium Development Goals especially in housing. You might have already read about our noble initiative in May last year to destroy illegal structures to instil order in the capital and to fight crime. No country on the continent has carried out an exercise of this magnitude and we are available to offer technical assistance to countries intending to carry out the task. Our people congratulated us for carrying out the exercise and we have started to construct homes to accommodate those affected by the clean-up exercise. We also have urged those who have still not secured alternative accommodation to apply for resettlement under our successful land reform programme.

My city, like many African urban areas, is worried about lack of employment opportunities and increasing poverty.

Health and educational facilities have always remained inadequate while building stock and service infrastructure have continued to deteriorate. These are areas of great concern to us, especially now when funds are scarce.

But our resolve to spruce up the image of the city remains unshakable. The commission has spent a considerable amount of money decorating and furnishing the mayoral mansion. Remember charity begins at home. I hope ladies and gentleman we will use the plenary to discuss strategies of dealing with opposition councillors, approving budgets without involving residents and removing the impediments to improving the welfare of mayors who need groceries, entertainment etc. 

I thank you all.