Monthly Archives: July 2012


I have used this platform to tell my fellow drivers and the general public about things that affect our business and our livelihood. I have said most of what I think is the way out of the mess we are in right now and I’m happy that a lot of people have been reading my posts and many written back to me telling me how they have come to know facts about our industry and the nature of our business. I have also talked a lot about motor vehicles accidents; but i must confess it had not occurred to me about the fate of pedestrians and cyclists who use the same roads.

When I close my eyes and think back Since my days as a conductor, I can only imagine what this two groups of road users have been through in the hands of motorists especially trucks; buses and Matatu drivers. I would have continued ignoring them just like everybody else had somebody not knocked some useful senses in my head.

I received an E-mail from somebody who had read some of the articles I’ve posted in this blog and she was very concerned about a group of road users who use non-motorized means to go from point A to B. I was surprised by how she referred to cyclists and pedestrians as road users. Why? because Most of us don’t consider them as so. This probably the reasons why a matatu driver would think its okay to drive at a sidewalk reserved for pedestrians at 80kph while sitting on the honks.

Since I joined the transport industry 12yrs ago; all I have heard from drivers is complains after complains of how cyclist are a nuisance to smooth flow of traffic. Many drivers see them as obstacles. I have witnessed cases where track loaders carry jericans filled with used oil and pour it on cyclists who they blame of attempting suicide by riding when they should be driving.

The matatu drivers have coined a name for this group we call them Tu-mtu twa baiskeli,  Many cases involving accidents with cyclists are heard every day when drivers talk about their day episodes and many honestly argue and believe that the road is for motor vehicles only. Majority pushes those off the road and you can even hear some drivers pride themselves on how they made a cyclist dive in the bush. The government has also not been keen enough to protect them as is evident in the planning and building of roads in major towns across the country. I don’t know whether it’s the ministry concerned with awarding tenders to road contractors that is not focused or it’s the contractors who present shoddy plans but whichever, the tax-payer ends up becoming the victim rather than the beneficially.

The recently expansion of Magadi road from Bomas of Kenya junction to Limpa; was quite a big relieve to many matatu drivers operating route 125 and 126 after many years of squeezing in a very narrow stretch. Victory Roads construction company; started on a very positive note and indeed widened the road. They did a almost perfect work but when the road was near completions something was missing, a lane for cyclists or even pedestrians. Perhaps they had not signed a contract for that part; but I refuse to believe that the government did not even pay for road signs and paint markings; not even for rail guards on the two notorious rivers that have so far claimed more than 8 lives this year; I guess somebody should be held responsible. But who?

As much as we would love to drive smoothly at high speed without obstractions- we should always remember that pedestrians and cyclists have a right to be on the same road and the best we can do is to appreciate them and give them space. On behalf of all matatu drivers; I extented our apologies to any cyclists pushed off the road and probaly injured. We will learn to respect your space. I hope the Government consider your welfare when they award the next road contract. Peace.

Another cause of accidents involving non-motorized road users that I’ve come to notice and is claiming many lives is lack of speed limit guideline in most of the urban centers. Speeding motorists hit pedestrians as they try to cross the roads especially when one side of the road is jam parked while the opposite is clear. This is the most common form of accidents in Ongata Rongai Township between the first stage and Nairobi women hospital. Passengers boarding and alighting from public service vehicles also fall victims as they wait for Matatus on the roadside since there are no designated bus-stops. Business owners and shoppers park on what is left of the roadside forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads.

Bringing back sanity on our roads will therefore take more than hefty fines and longer jail sentence. It will never be any wiser to fine a motorist millions of shillings for careless driving or jail them for life in-case of loss of live. The wise thing is to plan and build our roads safer for all users.

Prevention is known to work better than cure. Let our government see to it that roads are built fit for everyone. Rich and Poor.


Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Matatu matters


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let’s talk about matatu Industry.

Maryanne Morris

Hallo there. I have been looking for blogs with such a platform. I was wondering if there is a way you can assist. I would like to know who to contact when matatu drivers and touts get out of hand. Today morning, from town to westlands it was 50 Kenyan shillings. Who decides on these prices and what criteria is used. Lately the fares on that Nairobi-westalnds-kangemi route have been fluctuating from 30 shillings to 40 shillings and today 50shillings. That is insane. Who can I contact to address my complaint? Thank you

Wambururu In reply to Maryanne Morris.

Hello Maryanne; first; thank you for taking the effort to seek explanation. we owe you one, as to why? Fares suddenly raise by margins that can not be reasonably possible in the business market. Bearing in mind that the normal fare from Westland’s to town is 30.Sh.

The increase can arise due to Three main reasons; 1} from greed;/extortion; 2} Time taken -in case of heavy traffic-; and 3} The law of demand & supply; we all learned in our business education classes- If the demand is high , it obviously, affect the price. Another reason can be >The travel class – the fancier the matatu the higher the fare.}

I don’t know how traffic was in the morning but I hope you can identify with one of the reasons I’ve mentioned and perhaps see where the crew were taking advantage or grabbing an opportunity. About where you can address an grievances regarding any mistreatment, the only person you can talk to is the cop; as much as i know you would have preferred to talk to somebody else. I am sorry you started your day on a bad note and we are largely to blame.


Sir, could u please advise me the process of acquiring a loan to start a matatu business. Since am not really employed I plan to be dere myself so I guess management should not be a problem. Also, if I have let say 300k can I get the rest as a loan from a bank and they keep the logbook until I finish the loan. Thank u Abu   | In reply to Abu.

Hello Abu; thank you for taking time to read my blog and for the question about matatu investment;

To start of- 300K- ksh is quite a lot of money especially if you have the money in a bank- most banks will give you 3times what you have;i.e. if you been saving with them for six months and above. I also know few people at equity bank who maybe able to help you; but I’m not yet sure how they come in and the log-book issue. I would first advice you to decide on the type of matatu you want to buy- Toyota ;NISSAN,-MINI-BUS. once you have identified the vehicle,, see how much it will cost and a little bit of history about the particular car{year of manufacture, whether the engine has been changed, if it has been involved in an accident etc.} see how much you need and then go talk to the sacco operating on your route of choice.

In Ongata rongai, we have a very strong sacco called ORO-KISE; they can be very helpful. I will dig up for more and get back to you. thanks again for your inquiry.

martin njue commented on Matatus and their Role in Kenyan politics.

Just read your story and for real, Me i have been in the matatu industry for more than seven years since the moi regime when we used to eat on silver platter until recently the government realized that matatu business if strangled with tight “sheria” hard rules with which obviously we matatu mad men we would break, n to settle this out tha kitu kidogo flag flew high. So this business began dehydrating n soon matatu business at the end of the day’s count 75% was listed in @ matatu to have been forcefully possessed by the police and cartels daily. So slowly and slowly parking’s and car 4 sale lots were filled with matatus.4me my matatu is now a private van with which i feel at peace because no money is being taken from me on the road.The government should realize that facing first of- all the 14seater matatu will be a wide gate for insecurity and evil doings to the mwananchi, This is because 95% of Kenyans work and depend on this machines, Ningeomba serikali iweze kutuangalia sisi wananchi wa mapato kidogo.

Thanx for all the new out comings in our industry, but i got this  question. I heard that  matatu registration from KAN going down wards will b wiped out their T.L.B, is this  verified? I own a matatu KAN that’s why I’m eager to know  about this. could you be having a clue? I will appreciate. God bless.  to Martin.

Thank you Martin for bearing witness and confirming that The problem does truly exist. you have explained things as they are and with much more insight from the vehicles owners point of view. at least you have memories of the good but not very good days when Moi was the King; His word was law and he was okay with our contribution to the economy and need for transport. President Moi knew the importance of the sector and kept every body happy. I remember when he personally suggested that we create a standing section to cover the cost of operating the business instead of increasing fares.

But that was analog generation- the michuki digital transformations transformed everything. I have no idea that the facing off would start with registration but KAN has a lot of strength left in it that can be useful to our beloved country. don’t give up just yet.


Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Matatu matters


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Know your matatu drivers

Find out what this four matatu drivers from Rongai  have to say about their jobs and their personal life as they answer twenty question on what it is like to be a matatu driver.

Introduce yourself, name age and job..

  • My name is James I’m 36yrs old , married with three kids and i work in the matatu   industry as a driver.
  • I’m Elijah, 27yrs old, married with no kids yet, and I’m a matatu driver
  • My name is Denis Muranja, I’m 30yrs old,  father of one and i work as a matatu driver.
  • My name is Patrick mutisya , i am 38yrs old, married with one kid and a matatu driver by profession.

What is a matatu?

  • James. A matatu is a Kenyan term used to describe public service vehicles.
  • Elijah. A matatu is a public vehicle that carry’s passengers.
  • Denis. A matatu is a public transport vehicle.
  • Patrick.  A matatu is the means of passengers transport in Kenya.

How much do you earn normally?

  • James. My salary is not fixed and largely depends on the outcome of the day. On a good day i make over a thousand bob but on average i can say i make about seven hundred shillings.
  • Elijah. That depends on the day, i make about 1500 if all is well but at times i go home with as little as 200 sh.
  • Denis. It all depends on how the day has been, on a good day i make  1700 but on average i make about four thousand a week that is about 800 a day.
  • Patrick. My salary is 1000 bob but sometimes i get more or less, my average income is five hundred a day..

How much do you need to support your family?

  • James. My family currently lives on a budget of six hundred shillings a day.
  • Elijah. I need about five hundred shillings a day.
  • Denis. I spends about three hundred shillings at home.
  • Patrick. To support my family, i need two hundred for my child alone and another 200 for the house budget. a total of 400 sh.

After years on the same route, you must have different memories associated with different parts of the route. Describe.

  • James. The memories that have stack with me are the ones related to accidents, there are times when i drive past a certain spot and the incidents comes a fresh to my mind.
  • Elijah. I remember a time i was involved in an accident with a cyclist, although he was on the fault i remember that accident every time i reach Masai road junction.
  • Denis. I have memories of magadi road especially the Mbagathi river crossing where i have seen so many accidents.  i was and still is a black spot.
  • Patrick. Yes i remember a certain spot just after catholic university where a very fatal accident involving a Kenya bus service vehicle and a private car happened. A whole family mother and two kids were killed.

What are the challenges and dangers?

  • James.The biggest challenge is getting passenger to fill the vehicle, bearing in mind that there are hundreds of other matatus going the same direction.  The danger associated with our job is accidents.
  • Elijah. The biggest challenge is to see to it that you don’t get arrested and also meeting the target agreed with the vehicle owner. The danger i see in my job is to end up in jail.
  • Denis. The police are the biggest challenge and the council askalis. and the danger is to be locked up in prison.
  • Patrick. The biggest challenge is to meet the target because you risk loosing your job, the danger i see mostly has to do with the condition of the vehicle. If the vehicle is defective, then you risk even the lives of the passengers.

What pressure do you get from passengers especially in bad traffic?

  • James.It is during the morning rush-hour that i have to deal with pressure from the passengers, this is due to the pace of the trip and also, that we charge them more and the roads are mostly jammed.
  • Elijah. The passengers insist on matatu drivers to overlap and according to the traffic rules it’s a crime. the driver is forced to break the law or risk loosing customers.
  • Denis.The passengers have different attitudes and at times, they drain all their stresses on the driver.
  • Patrick.The passengers demand to be driven fast although the traffic is at gridlock. Forcing you to overlap and drive on side walks. but this is mostly during the morning rush-hour.

How common are accidents and do you know any driver who have been killed?

  • James.Accidents are common on the roads but those involving matatus are few and if any they are mostly less fatal. But i have seen my share of very fatal accidents that took the lives of two drivers i knew very well.
  • Elijah. In the last ten years accidents have decreased and i have seen about two or three but its only in one incident that the driver was killed. Yes, i used to know him.
  • Denis. Accidents are not common in the industry especially my route. but i know a driver who was killed late last year.
  • Patrick. Accidents in our route is not a common thing, i don’t know any matatu driver who  died as a result of an accident in the last few years.

What do people in Nairobi think of matatu drivers?

  • James.People in Nairobi especially those who don’t use our services are very hostile toward us but the bad attitude can not be said to be shared by everybody, there are those who are forced by circumstances to require our services and most of them are okay with us.
  • Elijah. Different people have different views, there are those who use our services and they treat us like other human beings, but there are those who have a very negative attitude toward us and they treat us like criminals and drug addicts.
  • Denis. Most people in Nairobi think we are reckless and nothing but a bunch of alcoholics and a drug addicts.
  • Patrick. They see us as different kind of people. majority think we are some how crazy. They mostly criticize our driving and our lifestyle in general.

How does this make you feel?

  • James. I have learned to live with the stigma. This is the public profile that the media has given our industry, I don’t let it disturb me.
  • Elijah. I feel bad and wish i could just get a chance to explain myself to those with negative attitude.
  • Denis.It makes me furious and at times i despise them for their wrong judgment.
  • Patrick.They make me feel like I’m in the wrong job. It hurts when people hate you for nothing.

Describe the relationship between matatu drivers[brotherhood, yellow stripe.]

  • James.There is general respect among all matatu drivers, the yellow stripe is the cord that makes us all equal and we reach out to help one another ,like during police crack-down.
  • Elijah. Yes we have a brotherhood, we warn each other of the dangers ahead and mostly during traffic jams and police operations.
  • Denis.We have a language that we all understand, it comes alive in times of police crack-downs. we know how to send and receive signals.
  • Patrick.All matatu drivers are friends in the job, there is no hatred , we keep each other informed on the state of the road and flow of passengers. it is common in all routes across the country.

Is it easy in this business to make enemies?

  • James. Matatu business is surrounded by enemies on all side,Since the main issue is money and there seem to be a lot of it in the industry, enemies are always there and probably here to stay.
  • Elijah. I always try to avoid making enemies although some people are a bit nuisance, it is expensive to make enemies because most of the people who have an agenda with our industry have either the backing of the state or powerful individuals.
  • Denis. It is very easy to make enemies especially because of the money involved and the competition to get passengers.
  • Patrick. It is easy to make enemies especially when driving, you may overlap then cut-in  and the other driver decides to keep it real and a fight ensures. but mostly its the passengers who get violent because they feel like they have been overcharged.

Is there competition to be the best driver?

  • James. The issue of being the best driver only applies to individuals but has no significant meaning to the industry. Driving on the same road everyday makes all of us drive almost the same. The goal is to reach the destination safely.
  • Elijah. Yes there is competition, if you are not careful on the road, you will not get to drive a good car and you might lose your job to a better driver.
  • Denis.There is no competition to be the best, any good and careful driver will do the job.
  • Patrick. Yes there is competition, this so happens when a driver is thought to be the best, he always gets to drive the hottest manyanga.

How good are you?

  • James.Personally i believe I’m as good as any driver can be, I have been on the road for over ten years and not a single accident.
  • Elijah. I am a good driver, i have depended on my driving skill for the past five years and I’m still doing it.
  • Denis. I’m good because i have maintained a good relationship with my passengers and i maintain the vehicle.
  • Patrick. I believe I’m very good, i can drive any type of passengers service vehicle. Be it a bus, minibus, a 14 seater or even a taxi.

How do the police affect the industry?

  • James.I believe the biggest problem is the police officers who have invested in the matatu industry, they play double standard and harass matatus owned by ordinary citizens.
  • Elijah.The police affect us by wasting our time in detention and at the end of the day demand for bribes. This makes us miss the target and loose our days income.
  • Denis. Oh my God, the police are the biggest head ache for our industry, the affect us by using the police stations and courts for extortion and detention where they ask for large sums of money.
  • Patrick. The police affect us through harassment while demanding for bribes, the mount road crack-downs every now and then only to seek for bribes.

What is your biggest fear during the day’s work?

  • James. My biggest fear when i start my day is to end up in prison or some hospital.
  • Elijah. The worst fear i have is to be detained, because if you are arrested you lose your days income and have to spend more in court fines.
  • Denis. My biggest fear is to lose my commission at the end of the day.
  • Patrick. My biggest fear is to be arrested and locked up in prison.

Describe car-jacking and how often does it happen?

  • James. Car-jacking is unpredictable but it happens, the most common is where gangs pose as passengers but end up taking control and robbing the crew and passengers.
  • Elijah. The incidents have decreased in the last six months, but it mostly involve passengers pulling guns and robbing other passengers. it is in very few occasions that the vehicle is stolen.
  • Denis. Car-jacking mostly happens in high season during the months of August and December. I have never been in one but my mother lost a matatu worth over a million shillings.
  • Patrick.I have personally been car-jacked two-times, in the first incident only the crew[me and the conductor] were robbed, but in the second incident even the passengers lost their valuables.

How tough do you have to be to be a matatu driver?{be able to fight in case of unavoidable circumstance?}

  • James. I have learned through experience that, you got to be strong to survive. You don’t have to be a martial art expert to work in this industry but it might be of significant help in some instances. There are times when you safety or even you live depends on it.
  • Elijah.As ca matatu driver you have to be prepared for anything, we mostly solve our differences through dialog but there are times when you go the whole nine yards.
  • Denis. The only toughness required in this job is driving, when times come when fighting is unavoidable i take to my heels.
  • Patrick. You don’t have to be a fighter if you can maintain a good relationship with everybody, but when fighting is the only option you got to trust you skills.

Because of long hours, many drivers take drugs or alcohol to keep them going. what is your opinion on this?

  • James.The issue of drugs and alcohol i believe is spread beyond career and we in the matatu industry has our share. Its is a fact that even the healthiest of persons needs a little stimulant to work 15-16 hours every day.
  • Elijah. Yes its true most of the drivers use drugs especially marijuana. i personally go out sometimes to have one or two in the local pub.
  • Denis. Not everybody uses drugs but its the case with the majority. some drink to handle the pressure while others do it because they are hooked.
  • Patrick. Yes we use drugs and alcohol, it is not scientifically possible to work all those hours while you are sober. majority of us use one or the other to keep the meter running.

What do you think of the government’s decision to face out matatus?

  • James. The idea is well thought but the problem is the timing, we drivers are just professionals offering our services to the transport industry. it doesn’t matter what cars we are driving what matters is that we are working.
  • Elijah.It’s a good idea because i believe bigger vehicles are a bit more dissent, but this will cause a lot of unemployment because a bus needs the same number of staff but carries four times what a matatu carries.
  • Denis. Oh no, they are crashing the lives of the youths who work in the industry. A lot of people depend on this matatus for their livelihood. yenyewe maboys wataisha kabisa. it’s not a good decision.
  • Patrick. It is not a good decision because it is going to affect a lot of people. Crime will definitely go up because this people are used to providing for their families and this idea will make them jobless.

Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Matatu matters



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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Its life, Matatu matters


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The king is naked.

I borrowed this title the king is naked- from one of the most watched TV program in Kenya. A political analyst was asked what he sees in the book –peeling Back the maskA Quest for justice in Kenya,- written by a former close ally turned enemy; of the prime minister-; which the Nation Newspaper will be serialising starting this week. The book is said to expose one of the two most popular presidential candidates for the next General  Election as a corrupt and untrustworthy leader and probably deny him ever ascending to the highest seat of this republic. I haven’t read the book yet, but i have two copies of the Daily Nation so far and i will continue for the duration the book will take.

Back to the analyst and the naked king- the guy said; “This is when people of Kenya will know Their King is Naked” He added that “the book will course great harm to the prime minister as people will get to see the other side of the man they intended to make their next president and change their minds.” I’m not sure about that because as they say; if you want to hide anything from an African hide it in a book; why? Because they say we don’t read. But;- what the heck? It’s warned in the good-book that; be admonished of making many books; there is no end. And much study is a weariness of the fresh. That is according to the preacher. 

Talking about a naked king; I want to borrow from Jennifer Graeff; a Project Coordinator; Center for Sustainable Urban Development – Earth Institute Columbia University, In her paper;- The Organization and Future of the Matatu Industry in Nairobi, Kenya. She explains very clearly what we and our leaders ought to do and how we can become very instrumental in realizing the goal we set much faster with less opposition or non whatsoever.

She starts her report by stating that; In African cities, the paratransit industry is generally described as dangerous, profit driven, environmentally unfriendly but also necessary to be mobile and maintain a daily routine of going to work, to school or to market. Simply stated the paratransit;{read matatu industry;} provides a necessary service to millions of people who will continue to use it as needed to be mobile. She goes on to say that;-Reforms of these systems are occurring all over Africa, most notably in the form of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Tanzania and South Africa, and there is discussion that Nairobi, Kenya is entertaining a transition to BRT as well.

I guess that explains the much talked about facing-off of the fourteen seater. But why buses to replace matatus and why can’t the Government invest in the buses if they are convenient. I may ask? She explains;- Bus Rapid Transit- is an attractive option for cities of the developing world for many reasons but a main reason, as demonstrated in Bogotá, Colombia, is its acknowledgment and inclusion of the informal transit industry into the larger transport system.——– Is that to say that we should include the current matatu owners in the  transition plans???  -according to her; For each city embarking upon a similar transition, the challenge is one of understanding the role and organizational capacity of informal transit industry, as it is this industry that traditionally resists reform.

 But why resist reforms if they are aimed at improving life? I’m persuaded to believe that the reforms have the best interest of all of those involved but just like the good word of the savior and the redeemer of mankind; the reforms lacks the voice to explain the content. Jennifer is on the opinion that;  For Nairobi, this means analyzing the informal paratransit mode, called matatus. She is convinced that; by understanding the specific networks within the matatu industry, avenues to reform and strategies for bringing key industry stakeholders into a policy network advocating for a reformed system can be identified.

Why haven’t we done that and yet everybody want change? I will tell you why- the reason is because we have ignored a very vital ingredient; recognizing potential pitfalls and engaging with key stakeholder: The project coordinator from Columbia University believes this; can help foster transport policies, networks and an overall framework that can leverage the matatu industry into being integrated into a larger public transit system.

I agree with Jennifer and hope those responsible for the transition in Nairobi Kenya will follow her advice and include all stakeholders in the reform process. I personally wish and hope to see a more organized transport industry that meets the customer’s needs as well as the welfare of the workers. We the workers who operate the actual business of transporting people have no objection to positive reforms; if only somebody has a plan on how to implement the reform process and be willing to ask our opinion.!!! Don’t the dull and the ignorant have their story? Ask Desiderata.

We all want what is best for Kenya. Now that our weakness is known to us, let’s do something about it. A naked king does best if he puts on some cloths and accept that he was naked. As for the prime minister, I’m sure we all love gossip and looking forward to see the king stripped naked. I only hope some of his political sons will take a blanket and walk backward to cover his nakedness-{like it happened in the times of Noah; the man who saved mankind by building the Ark only to get drunk and lay exposed}..


Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Its life



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