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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Kamagira touts

As a matatu approaches any major town,  a group of young men runs toward the car; some chase the matatu on the passenger side and opens the sliding door as the car is still in motion,while the other group of about three or four men runs along the car on the driver’s side, a heated argument ensures between the men as they decide who is going with the vehicle and who is not, once they have sorted themselves; a new team takes over control. Music is tuned up to deafening volume and more passengers are added or forced to squeeze in the already full matatu.This  new group that takes over are known in the industry as -kamagira- the name is a corrupted kikuyu word meaning; go get them {Thii umagire}
This guys might decide to terminate your journey anywhere between the last kilometer without explanation, that largely depends on the size of the crowd of passengers on the opposite direction, if they are convinced that there are enough people to fill the car, then the matatu makes a u-turn and the next thing you hear is ” Mwisho” this means the end of that matatu’s journey; if you refuse to alight and stay put,then sorry for you because these people don’t really care about you or what ever you think is your rights, they will drive back with you up to the place they had initially left the original crew who will apologetically give you a ten shillings coin and advise you to board another vehicle. if you dare question, then you will be in for a rude shock, this men will call you names and tell you things that will hunt you for many days; they seem to have mastered the art of using abusive language to the fullest advantage.

And, if you are the guy who likes keeping it real i.e you go to the gym and you have some pounds of muscles in your arms and chest.don’t ever try to challenge this men into a fight. Why ? because every other matatu that will slow down and find you beating one of their own will produce two more fighters, at the end of it all, you will be the one recording a statement at the police station.while you nurse some nasty wheel spanner’s injuries and a few stitches
But why do we have them if all they do is cause confusion and chaos? well, they are as useful to the industry as the freelance journalists are to any media house,they provide the much-needed insight in commercializing passengers transportation. they set the prices and regulate the number of vehicles to any route,they monitor the flow of passengers, .They are the link between the passengers and the transporters,
Their main job is to make sure that the matatu is full before it leaves every town. Their fee is deducted and is included in the daily budgeting of the matatu,
Who are they and where do they come from? They are the Watu Wa Barabara [people of the road] they are our brothers, our sons, our children, they smoke weed in the open drink before Mututho’s time and are always dressed in the latest fashion if not in rags. they don’t wear uniforms and sometimes the police treats them like dangerous criminals, they are rounded up, arrested chained and flog matched to police stations, where they are booked and then dragged to courts but they re-appear the following morning at their usual joint chanting and sharing goodies with the cops who had arrested them the previous day. they are ex-prisoners, ex-drivers, ex-conductors,ex-thieves, ex-anything.
Where do they come from?> from every home; they are the black sheep’s of each family brought together by a common desire, to find acceptance.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Matatu matters

 

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My preacher and me; a daily dose of faith.

I normally arrive home around 10pm; with normally, I want to say, most of the times. The distance between my work station and my home/ rented house is about a kilometer.  Enough walking distance to re-adjust to a normal a human being;- what we do at work especially those of us in public service is definitely not normal. – Smiling to everybody while at the same time trying your best to extort money from them is not normal. -Lying to your boss; to avoid being lectured on how money doesn’t grow on tree and why you should not expect to get rich if you can’t even meet his target is certainly not normal. -The only thing that is probably normal is my commission at the end of the day. It is always short of how much I wanted.

I have walked every inch of this one kilometer road over the past six yrs. It has become my communion path. A path that has led me to heaven and at the same time to hell; I’ve walked this road wondering what happened to God and why He has forgotten that he created me. And on the same road, I have walked thanking God that even though I have sinned and fallen short of His Glory, He still loves me and protects me from, hunger, diseases, muggers, accidents and countless bad omens that befall people every day.

After getting home, I have to go through the same routine every single day; walk in the house, my wife is standing by the door because she has just opened it; I might get a kiss or not depending on moods. I see the three seater sofa set and imagine myself stretched there; but imagination just ends there, going anywhere near that seat is not allowed in this house.{ I wonder what been sat-on means if this is not it.} The consequences of what happens if I’m allowed to sit down before taking a shower have a history between these four walls and also a source of a number of arguments. .!!! So, to avoid unnecessary fights, I go straight to the bathroom as the host goes to the kitchen to warm the food. By the time I get to sit on the sofa, to a cup of hot coffee, it is 10:30 and Joyce Meyer is on TV

My wife is one of her biggest fans-{follower;- I guess is the correct word ;} I once tried to compare Joyce Meyer with Oprah but she told me that the two are world apart and have nothing in common. Oprah is a queen with fans while Joyce is a servant following Jesus. This mother of my children also believes that she too like Joyce Mayer is a servant;{ although sometimes I see her as the master, especially when I’ve been out parting with friends and won’t go to church with her and the kids  because of hang-over’s.} Since this happens like almost every Saturday, Joyce Meyer becomes our only moment when we sit together and listen to a preacher. It has become part of our everyday life such that, my wife will automatically know something is not right if the preacher is on TV and I haven’t arrived home.  “Honey, where are you? Your preacher is on.”

That is how important this one preacher has become part of my every day’s life. Thirty precious minutes of gospel truth every week day cupped with a plate of food and a cup of coffee. By the time she is through with her sermon, She leaves me feeling so guilty and needing to repent for the way I sometimes relate and handle others, especially at work. I cannot recall the number of times I’ve gone to bed a completely new born again Christian; only to wake up in the morning; curse the government for traffic jams, curse the police for sleeping on their jobs and curse anybody who cuts in front of me. I guess I have not made it to the spotless Christians list but I’m still working on it.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Its life

 

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New wine- But- same old wine skins.

A friend from UK told me that she was very disappointed that despite all the effort; time and money, the Government and other development partners are putting on improving road infrastructure in the country, roads still continue to claim so many innocent lives. She had read about two very fatal accidents which happened last week along Mombasa road. she wanted to know why in both occasions; Matatus were involved.

The first one was about a school bus driver who was reported in the press as trying to make an illegal turn and obstructed the matatu that had the right of the way. The matatu rammed on the school bus killing three junior primary students. Young souls were lost. In the next incident; Nation media posted a picture of the scene and  the writer’s theory as to how the accident happened. the writer tried to draw a picture of how one matatu that was overlapping suddenly cut- in on a trailer; {that it was probably overtaking.} causing the lorry’s driver, to cross to the opposite road; only to be met by another trailer head-on. Both the lorry’s drivers died on the spot. According to the article, the Accident happened as the trailer was trying to avoid hitting the matatu from behind only to end up hitting an on-coming trailer and crushing another matatu. six people perished

Those two incidents reminded me of a training program I had posted on this blog asking for assistance to buy 40.000 copies of the Highway Code booklets and make sure that every PSV driver gets a copy. The idea behind my idea was to help other drivers like me who have been on the highway for over a decade but we find ourselves overtaken by the latest technology. The new-tech user-friendly roads are supposed to help you get to your destination with the least ease as possible. But surprisingly, they have become a nightmare.

I’m a royal customer of MWI-SACCO; because I happen to live somewhere along their path. To them I’m a passenger just like any other in the mostly 50—60 sitters’ buses.  I don’t tell them about my being in the same industry or display my badge to get free. I prefer to pay the 50 shillings fare and sit back or doze off in the bus rather than ride by the door standing until a vacant seat becomes available.  I’m one of those who are not yet clear on the issue of wearing uniforms; so I don’t wear it to work;Without the uniform it is not easy for anybody to tell I’m a matatu driver.

The  thirty or so minutes; that I’m sitting in that seat, are the most precious in my days activities because; this is when I’m forced to call my Lord’s attention to watch over me while I allow another human being to gamble with my life and live. Matatus and their drivers {I being one] are the quickest means to get you to your destination but also a very big risk, depending on who is behind the wheels.

The first prayer when the matatu leaves the stage, Is ask the lord to see to it that we are the only MWI-SACCO bus on Thika road; that automatically means there will be no racing.

I then pray that the driver drinks no spirits. Most of the drivers who have become addicted to plastic bottled spirits; are my biggest scare. I am an insider and I know how most of them end up like that. Many of those who have killed on the roads or been involved in fatal accidents hide behind the alcohol tag to remain sane. The bible says that anyone guilty of murder is digging his own grave and warns us not to try and stop him. I pray that they don’t take me with them to their grave.

Talking about grave matters, let me just ask you to imagine how it would be like to live with the knowledge that you were responsible for the death of several people.  Think of a driver haunted by what he encounters and the horror he see every day on the roads. Trapped souls he helps to free from accidents scenes, HIT N Run victims he rescued and took to the hospital only to be forced to pay deposit for total a stranger and have the vehicle inspected to proof he did not hit the victim in the first place. A man who witnessed a passenger been shot at close range because he was found hiding some money by a carjacker. Finally I want you to look at a man who did time in prison because he could not afford the bribe-price. Do you see the kind of man we are reaching out to?

Well; the RE-TRAINING program; Once Funds are available, will kick-off and will include counseling  seminars; lessons on road safety; refresher courses; public relations and customer care among other activities.  Since the goal is to produce roads friendly drivers, we are still calling for volunteers. Please help make our roads safe by donating a COPY OF THE LATEST Highway-code book- to your favorite matatu driver in your route.

I will buy two for my MWI-SACCO drivers.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Matatu matters

 

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A Little of western In Nairobi’s UN-Avenue.

The last few weeks have been dramatic and quite entertaining; A silent war has been going on behind closed doors as husbands tried to hold back 10% of their earning claiming the wifes were taking the portion to the wrong Pastors. I was on the opinion that I be allowed to spend the money on Saturday evening watching Olympic Games with friends until The Fake Miracle Saga is resolved. Well; as you must have guessed by now, I lost the motion: She reminded me about that guy and his wife who sold a portion of their land and held back some of the proceeds.  I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me, so I gave up and even thought twice about disclosing the whole income.

While the pastor was rehearsing the script for the fake miracle and auditioning for actors, another real miracle was taking place. It was not coming from the skies like the New Jerusalem, nor was it as a result of days of fasting and planting seeds through M-pesa. It had been brought about by pain and loss of live.

Painful that a young school girl lost her live in an accident as she went to school in the morning. Many motorists probably witnessed the incident on UN Avenue; and like the Good Samaritan in the good book someone did not just pass-by. UNEP whose association with the road hence has earned it the name UN-Avenue; sort to know how they could help in such a situation:

They were convinced that the young life was lost Because of lack of safe facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, it was not the first time it had happened; two fatal accidents, both involving children on foot or bike and a motor vehicle, just in the span of a few months.

To improve the situation, UNEP reached out to KURA [Kenya Urban Roads Authority} and the first meeting was held in November 2009. They discussed ideas for reducing congestion and improving road safety. It was agreed to use UN Avenue as an example and provide the neccesally facilities to reduce Non-Motorised transport and Motorists conflicts. –It may sound like one of the not yet seen vision 2030 projects but you will not believe how soon the miracle has come to pass.

I recently went to the UN Complex to get a feel of how it feels to be charged with thinking on behalf of everybody else and coming up with solutions fit for all humanity and their problems. I had been invited to get the answer to my question in my last post where I had sought to know who was minding the fate of the other road users.

I knew where the complex is located because I have been to American Embassy a couple of times taking people who were promising me heaven when they go to the land of milk and honey only to take them back home crying on my shoulder. I was accompanied by one of the victims of the early morning Visa parade; she knew the road well; but it brought her bad memories.  This time I was not expecting a broken-hearted relative wetting my shirt.

. She was the first to notice something different about the road.- “Hawa wazungu wameleta America Kenya. “ {This westerners have brought America to Kenya} I didn’t quite understand what she meant with America presence in Kenya.

Wapi America?? I asked. That is when she pointed and I noticed the new look UN-Avenue.; What we were looking at was truly a western version. Side walks-people walking up and down without a care what is passing on the roads. A two lane bicycle tracks, it was somehow funny watching cyclists keeping left; in their own road.

Is this road fit for matatus? I was tempted to ask- but on this road???

I didn’t think so. But It Didn’t take long to see them; it was like they were not even there. I was expecting the usual – passengers waiting for a matatu under the No picking of passengers sign

.But it was different here; The matatu stage was moved to a more suitable location  and a feeder road constructed for vehicles going straight ahead and those going to UN Complex and the American Embassy.

When we left the complex, i was looking forward to have a better look at how collaboration between Our very own Kenya Urban Roads Authority{KURA} and UNEP has transformed a road to an Avenue. You should see it to believe. You don’t even have to bring your car; take a matatu, and walk the whole stretch; there is just enough for everybody,hata boda-boda.

The road will be unveiled sometimes this year and Kenyans will for the first time see how roads will look like in the future. I’m fortunate to know the chairman of Matatu welfare Association Mr Dickson Mbugua and  since we share more than a common goal of making matatu industry better than we found it; I will see to it that he negotiates an invitation for our Sacco bosses during the launch.

It is important for investors to also see and imagine how it would feel to operate on such roads.

see more on how UNEP is Engaged in solving other transport problems across the country .http://www.unep.org/transport/sharetheroad/

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

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