Editorials

Punish vandals heavily to protect infrastructure

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta during 2021 Jamhuri Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi.

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Summary

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday stopped exports and dealings in scrap metal.
  • The decision handed a painful blow to the businesses that depend on the sector to make an honest living, but it is necessary to protect critical national infrastructure.
  • The President said unscrupulous dealers were targeting key infrastructural installations for metals.

President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday stopped exports and dealings in scrap metal. The decision handed a painful blow to the businesses that depend on the sector to make an honest living, but it is necessary to protect critical national infrastructure.

The President said unscrupulous dealers were targeting key infrastructural installations for metals.

The vandals have become daring in recent months, uprooting parts of the railway line, and pulling down road signs and guardrails with reckless abandon.

Last week, the impact of their actions was felt when electricity towers supporting a high-voltage power line linking Nairobi to the Kiambere hydroelectric dam came tumbling down, resulting in a nationwide blackout.

When he announced the ban yesterday, the President said there have also been clear cases of sabotage as was the case in Naivasha where people intentionally unbolted some transmission lines and masts to create chaos and havoc.

The Business Daily recently visited sections of the standard gauge railway (SGR) in Naivasha and saw firsthand the shocking reality of how vandals are chipping away the multi-billion shilling railway line one bridge at a time, as Kenya Railways police deployed to man the line sleep on the job.

The vandalism loot is sold off as scrap metal in neighbouring towns. At least three bridges that tower up in the air have been vandalised almost in their entirety, as thieves walk away with one piece of metal after the other fuelled by the booming scrap metal business.

Needless to say building the new railway line and roads has not come cheap for Kenyans who are bracing themselves to repay hefty loans. The danger that comes with derailing trains or road accidents due to lack of proper signage is enormous.

As the country comes up with new guidelines to manage the scrap metal industry, it is important to use the existing laws to punish offenders.

Section 343 of the Penal Code states that a person who damages the railway works, with an intent to endanger life or with the knowledge that it is likely to endanger life, is liable to imprisonment for life.