RSS

Category Archives: ewaste

Addiction and the chaos in the matatu sector.

When the matatu welfare association forwarded my name to NACADA for a TOT training on Alcohol and Drugs Abuse {ADA}. I felt like i was the wrong person for this training. I could not see any connection between Road safety and workers welfare which is my specification at the association and the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse{ NACADA }. If at all, I was partaking on one of the substance Nacada was campaigning against. More so, i did not think that going back to class was the best option considering the timing of the training and another meeting at KIPPRA where I represent hundreds of matatu drivers under the KENYA CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK FOR NMT AND ROAD SAFETY. I had all the reasons to seek for an excuse not to attend the training but, I didn’t.

Come the day we were to report at the college for registration and i packed my learning gear and headed to Karen. I’m really glad i did; By the end of the week, i was so sure i know the reason we have all these chaos and mismanagement in the matatu sector. It had never occurred to me that Alcohol and Drugs could be responsible for most of the miseries workers in the public transport service sector had gone through and continue to suffer from. I listened keenly as facilitators skillfully opened our minds to the reality that addiction is causing havoc in the life’s of Kenyans,- affecting every area of our livelihood and our personal health.

I had always thought that chewing MIRAA, smoking weed and a few tots of whiskey was a cool thing and also a boost to our performance since our jobs require a lot of focus, determination and recklessness that can only be described as bordering insanity. This three substances have been the source of that courage for many a matatu driver to a curtain point that- they have become accepted as part of our lifestyle. But as i sat in that lecture room listening to expert talk about alcohol and drugs and their effects on the users, I could connect every explanation with somebody i know or have worked with in the matatu industry.

When the lecturer talked about Alcohol, i could see many alcoholics by name, the life they are leading, the consequences of their choices and the direction addiction had taken their life’s. when they talked about inhalants, i was finally able to connect the -teenage deaths- of many street children who come to collect plastic bottles from our buses with the glue they sniff. I had notice a certain pattern where many of the street kids die young or develop permanent mental illness. The issue of MIRAA chewing really surprised me and I’m still very deeply concerned about the effects of this substance that is legally available across the country with no restriction in producing, processing and sale.

Miraa {twigs} and muguka {the leaves} cause more damage to the user that marijuana  and  cigarettes combined. Like the bible writer had posed it; WHAT IS THE PROFT OF GAINING THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSING YOU SOUL IN THE PROCESS? the same is true for those abusing these products of the evergreen CATHAEDUIIS tree. Many who innocently chew on the substance  to stay alert and work more hours behind the wheels are at the same time working their way to self destruction and endangering the survival of their species.Miraa is said to have grave and irreversible effect on the reproductive system causing impotence. This alone is reason enough to break hundreds of homes as is evident in majority of users. other effects included patched up sleep that catches up with the driver while on the road resulting to serious accidents.

Matatu industry has the highest number of drug abuser in all public services sectors in our country. In my 14yrs behind the wheels i have experienced and experimented on most of this substances.many of us chew miraa to work long shifts and like i said, our job description require focus determination and confidence. Marijuana is the drug of choice for many as it gives the user a sense of well being, bravely, confidence and allow us to exhibit recklessness that is next to madness. The false confidence and false bravely mixed with other long term effect of the drug like, sudden panic, poor judgment, and paranoia [ unreasonable fear} can be associated with hundreds of accidents that goes unreported where matatu owners agree to compensate the affected party to avoid involving the police as their driver is intoxicated and also the one to blame for the accident.

Since receiving the training, i have been engaging my comrades into discussions on the effects of alcohol and drugs and to my surprise, many are those who are suffering in silence. it is extremely painful to watch a loved one or somebody you know very well destroy his/her life; but this is the position many of us are forced to take when a chemically dependent loved one or a friend denies having a problem with substances. If any, majority of us condemn the affected instead of understanding that addiction is a disease; we blame them for having a problem with morals.

Any government institution ,NGO or civil society willing to bring sanity and order on our roads especially the matatu sector must look at the issue of drug abuse as a contributing factor in the mismanagement of the trade and be willing to help and give hope to the affected. a calculated approach aimed at healing and reconciliation will go a long way in ending the chaos and confusion in the matatu sector and in the long run reduce accidents by a very big margin. Tackling the drugs and substances abuse in the matatu sector is not an easy task but that is not to say it is impossible. The reason being that majority of those using the substances are already hooked or addicted and have a long history of dependency on the drug unlike students or the youth in learning institutions. The national Government must look at the big picture and find a long term solution to this menace.

Another area that will require a closer look and more serious approach is the area of counseling for drivers who have been through tragic accidents. There are many who are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and many take to drugs and or alcohol to seek reprieve. Once hooked to drugs dependency , it becomes very hard to come out. Recovery from addiction is a long road that requires almost the same treatment as chronic diseases; this is an expensive journey that most matatu workers will never travel. Recovery from addiction can only be achieved through a combination of self-management, mutual support and professional help. To accomplish this task we must stop looking at it as a problem affecting matatu workers and start looking at it as a problem affecting the society.

Advertisements
 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Police Reforms is a Genuine concern.

The Cabinet secretary for transport Engineer Michael kamau was recently quoted in the local media as saying that ” The matatu Industry is one docket in his ministry that gives him a hard time and he would not mind if the sector was removed from his ministry and given to somebody else. This is a genuine concern that should not be ignored. I have ‘personally’ been in this Industry for over 15 yrs and i can see his point very clearly. From far back as the narc Government came to power under president kibaki, A lot of effort has been put in trying to bring sanity and some order in the matatu industry but most of this effort is defeated. And chaos and all manners of corruption, carjacking, extortion and harassment remains the order of the day in the matatu sector.

The cabinet secretary is not the only one having nightmares because of the undisclosed hardships he is encountering in discharging his duty; the newly appointed then suspended and later re-appointed chairman of the NATIONAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST DRUGS & ALCOHOL- AUTHORITY chairman HON John Mututho is also complaining about frustration by some police officer who have interest or investments in the selling of alcohol. Like i have always complained about policemen owning matatus and using their power to interfering with the smooth flow of traffic and adherence to laws and order; HON Mutotho is also not happy, and it is emerging that the police are doing more damage even in other sectors they are entrusted with.

Corruption in the corridors of justice is another obstacle which also point fingers at the police department, Most of the traffic cases that do finally get to the courts are again doctored by prosecutors{police men/women} or reduced to lesser charges at a fee and only the -have-not’s- end up meeting the magistrate.I know this is only a tip of the iceberg; If we were to look at other areas where police exercise authority, we would be meet by same stories of how justice remains with a price tag and reserved for those who can afford it.

The cabinet secretary for transport should not throw in the towel just yet. he should borrow a leaf from the NACADA chairman who have vowed to camp at STATE HOUSE gate if that is what it will take; and explain to the president about his frustration with senior police officers who own bars and allow them to operate without due respect to the law. Kenya is today blessed with a caring and mostly, a listening president and deputy president who judging by their  determination to develop this country and secure their legacy,will be more than willing to solve this Matatu madness once and for all times and put in place a well organized public transport system. A starting point would be to separate police from traffic duties; We have invested in Digital traffic controlling system why not bring in Traffic marshals from private or The national youth service to take charge of our roads, and prosecute offenders in special traffic courts.

The war on drugs and substance abuse is yet another area that is been hindered by the law enforcers and the effects of this problem[ drug abuse} has crept to almost every area of our social and professional life’s leaving a trail of destruction and wasted years. I am saddened by the sight of desperate and sick ex-matatu workers who have been reduced to zombies by drugs and alcohol. who hang out at bus-stops across the country begging for handouts from passengers. The number of drug peddlers and wines and spirit outlets near matatu terminals { opened as early as 7.30 am} is increasing. We know most of those who sell this drugs and the owners of this bars and yes, the police also know them and comes to collect their portion even in broad day light and in their official uniform and vehicles.

My frustrations with the law enforcers, is the failure to protect even the environment. Allowing vehicles with excess smoke is to me not caring for the hands that feeds them. The number of matatu drivers who have died of Pneumonia, Ashma, TB and other respiratory diseases is worrying. The reason it has never grabbed headlines is probably because nobody bothers to take note. Drivers are hired with no signing of contracts or any legal agreement and fired the same way, when anyone falls sick, only the family and close friends gets to know. I hope and I wish someone with authority will dedicate his duty to get this unroadworthy vehicles killing our drivers with poisonous fumes off the roads and save many lives. This is another group of people who also perish in the roads but their statistics are not known or noted in most road safety campaigns.

The idea is not to blame or point an accusing finger to the police, I only want to point out the problem and hope someone {it might be you} will do something about it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 22, 2013 in ewaste, Its life, Matatu matters

 

Tags: , , ,

Please Retrain PSV drivers. No one is safe.

The fourteen seater; matatu may as well be on its way out and we have started to see brand new vehicles on the road; That is evident today with the way investors are buying 33 seaters and if the china’s deal with President Kenyatta will bring other investors in to the field, we will see more sofisicated model of public transport. We welcome this new change that is surely more attractive and comfortable than the Nissan matatus we have had for years.
But that is not all. it is not yet time for Kenyans to relax and expect too much change.I don’t want to break anybody’s spirit but I would like to tell everybody to hope for the best but leave a room for the worst; Early this morning, an accident involving a passenger service bus helding to far eastern from the capital has so far claimed 40 lives and over thirty are seriously injured. The policy makers are meeting at a location near the scene of the accident do discuss various ways of reducing tragic road accidents involving passengers service vehicle. among the agendas to be discussed is banning long distance public service vehicles from operating at night.

I remember how people had so much confidence in the new Government and were up in arms to fight corruption among other evils the Moi regime was accused of.Kenyans refused to pay bribe and even went as far as apprehending traffic cops who were demanding bribe from matatu drivers.

It was therefore a rude shock to witness what happened five years later,private companies were contracted and given monopoly to import gadgets; the new by-laws required for all matatus.Workers were then required to deposit advance tax with the Kenya revenue authority to be issued with badges. Anybody found without the card was immediately arrested and taken to court.It was Uhuru Kenyatta who came to our rescue when he took over as the minister for finance and abolished advance tax for would be matatu workers.

Today, Everyone is excited about the Nissan matatus paving the way and taking all their bad habits with them. I know, majority are wishing that we evaporate into the thin air sooner never to be heard again; so that we can leave them in peace; but i have news for you. We are only changing the costume,but we are retaining the priesthood. The smaller matatus are not to blame for overlapping, overtaking-{ even when they see an approaching vehicle}- or for driving on the side walks; It is the drivers who do this things. Kenyan motorists should now expect to meet a seventy one seater bus overtaking on a blind corner.
What I’m trying to say is that; we need more than just bigger buses. The transport industry must reform its members if the change is to bear fruits.The tricky part will be in choosing who will drive the fewer buses and what will happen to the rest of us.Many people who earn their daily bread in the matatu industry will have to seek for alternative means of getting the bread while those who will get the fewer jobs will continue abstracting other motorists, overtaking, overlapping.

I’m not of the opinion that we call for national prayers for our driver to drive safely;I would prefer we re-train them. Changing the size of the vehicle is just like-washing the pig as written on the bible- we all know what will happen when the cleaned pig is set free.

The only measure that will bring sanity on our roads is when we decide to reach out and educate our drivers on traffic rules and regulations. Until then…….!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 29, 2013 in ewaste, Its life, Matatu matters, Spiritual wisdom

 

Tags: , , ,

My Dad’s note that gave meaning to my day today’s life.

On the day I left home to go to the city to look for a job 15 yrs ago, I had no certificates or any recommendation.I had never been employed outside the family businesses. The only tool of trade that could help me get a job was my one year old driving license. My dad called me and asked me if i was ready to face the world on my own and i remember very well that i confidently told him i was ready to joining the matatu industry. That evening he gave me an envelop with 3000 Ksh rent. For my new-house and this message;“Everything depends on God’s Grace; To get His grace, Whatever Work You Perform, Do it with sincerity and Earnest Longing. Through His Grace, environment will be favorable and conditions for realizing your dreams will be perfect.” That was then.

Being a matatu driver and a blogger has opened a whole new world for Wambururu; A few years ago, I never could have thought I would ever set foot in places i have visited on official invitations and met people I’ve met.My blog has of late started to compete in earnings with my driver’s job and this is good news i would wish to share with all of you who read of this blog. It is quite an interesting way of making a living especially for somebody who was used to sitting behind the wheels of a public service vehicle for 15 hours to make 10 dollars, now turned to a FIXER.

I got this title -FIXER- from an American photo journalist who had contacted me to help him find the perfect locations for a story he was working on. The deal was that I will take him wherever he wanted to go in his research and he would compensate me fully for the time i could have alternatively be sitting behind the steering of my matatu. He told me that people who do that for foreign journalists are called Fixers. And a fixer i became.

We started our trail to find out what happens to electronics in Kenya and especially Nairobi once they are no longer useful. The code name of the project was “e-Waste” We started off at Dadora dump site as we had been directed by a report from a UN agency.- {the only available current data in the internet, about ewaste: last updated in 2009.} The report and also a section of the media report, had warned that the electronic waste was becoming a healthy hazard to citizens living near the dump-site; as some of the components used to make computers are a big risk and can even cause diseases like cancer.

A lot must have changed since the time the report was posted, as by the time we got there, there was not a single electronic item in the dump-site.With that in mind, my contract with the photo journalist would have to be extended if ever he was to know the truth. What we were looking for was not in the dump-site. Those we asked told us that such items do not end up in the dump and even the ones that do get there are instantly collected and resold to buyers who camp at the site buying anything with value.

My American friend could not believe that he had followed a not so accurate data about the health hazard in Kenya, said to be caused by ewaste. To get the facts collect, we tracked down one of the Garbage tracks and organized for him to ride in the track the whole day as it did it’s round and follow the trash all the way to the dump-site. It was a smelly ride and also an eye opener for the ewaste research. He discovered that- garbage collectors have one or two of their own, who’s main job is to go through all the trash that is loaded in the track and sort out any resell-able item like, Metals, plastic, electronics etc.before they dump at Dadora. With nothing from the main dump-site, we had to come up with another approach. For the whole time he rode in the track, he did not see a single electronic waste. This could only mean one thing, nobody was throwing away the items.

The next step was to trace where most of the waste could be generating from and find out what happens between the trash bin and the dump-site. The most obvious place to start would be the repair shops  who have the final word on the fate of any electronic device. We started in the CBD and went all the way to River Road- We stop at many repair shops and all those we asked told us that there are collectors who come to their workshops and buy the stuff. Mobile phone’s and computer’s “mother boards” were the most sort after of all electronics as they fetched good prices.

A visit to National Environment Management Authority did not yield much as the institution is only mandated with registration and issuance of licenses to waste collectors. As we tracked the ewaste from the dump-site through repair shops, we ended up in go-downs in Ngala and Baba Ndogo in Nairobi upper industrial Area- we came across fully established big companies with foreign expertise and employees, modern offices dealing in exporting the electronics waste out of the country. The contract lasted a couple of days and when he was satisfied, he flew back to his country and left a very happy fixer.

This was not the first time i was offering my services to journalist; although previously, i did not get any money from them; if anything, I had to spend my own cash for transport and meals as we worked on television and newspaper stories. I have previewed articles, books, assisted in editing documentaries and arranged transportation for cast and crew to filming locations among other tasks.. My helping hand, I have taught me many drills when it comes to film production. Also through the blog i have been contacted to arrange and offer transportation for International journalists, researchers, university students from across the world and local learning institutions. I have had my 5 minutes of fame in a local popular  television Drama “papa shiradula” My writing and documentaries have been used by teachers and students in Sweden and Moscow. and a short film about my career as a matatu driver is currently competing at the Guinness film festival in France.

The events of my life and career has left most of my friends in the matatu industry wondering, surprised, and questioning my intentions. Also IT experts are advising me on publishing my popular blog on my own domain- web-site. I hear that i might be making some few extra coins from GOOGLE. That is also good news. When i think about all that has happened and what is happening today, i can only thank my dad for the words he share with me that have come to pass in my own life.

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: