Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kenyans Need to Stand Up to the Bullies on the Road

Despite all the talk about greater policing of the roads, there is little evidence of it when travelling around Kenya at the moment. There are police every few kilometres but that doesn't stop drivers and touts from taking on too many passengers, driving like maniacs and driving vehicles that are clearly not fit to be used on the road. Many public service vehicles are only fit to be dumped. It would probably be a risk even to reuse the parts.

Several times last month, all public transport in the centre of Nakuru was held there for 'inspections'. Matatus are regularly stopped and police sometimes tick off passengers for not wearing seat belts, etc. Often they can't wear seat belts because the vehicle has been overfilled. But when a matatu licensed to carry 14 has up to 20 or more passengers, the police are likely to wave them on. There are vehicles that have only some lights, or no lights, there are some with bent axles and many other serious problems that could, and often do, result in accidents, injuries and deaths. has a story about the two major road traffic accidents last weekend, which killed 'at least' 20 people. Both accidents are said to have been caused by defects, specifically, defective brakes. If all the many traffic police are just going to wave on obviously defective vehicles and do little but bully the odd passenger who looks like an easy target, this is not what I would call a 'crackdown' on the roads.

And people here would need to play a part in changing the way road users treat pedestrians and public transport users. People wait at the side of the road for cars to pass even where they have the right to cross, they stop every time a car blows the horn as if they have no rights. They allow road users to treat them as second class citizens. And they allow public transport drivers and staff to treat them as if they were receiving some kind of generous favour.

I have rarely heard passengers complaining when drivers and touts overfill matatus and get people to double up on seats. Yet, the passengers' lives are being put in danger. As long as people behave as if they are indebted to matatu providers they will continue to be treated this way. They need to protest, at least a little. Matatu owners are desperate for the business, they need to remember who the customer is and who has the upper hand. Sphere: Related Content

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