The matatu sector in Western Kenya in need of urgent reforms.
Written by Timothy Makokha
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Passengers scambling to board a matatu at the Bungoma Bus Stage. [Photo | West Fm | File]
We’ve all at least benefitted from the matatu sector in one way or the other. They are the most common means of transport not only in Western Kenya, but the whole country.
This sector seems to be associated with greed for money at the expense of passengers’ lives. Carrying excess passengers is the order of the day as most conductors would say matatus are never full.
They can stop anywhere to pick a passenger no matter how many times the matatu will stop on the way. A conductor would order passengers to move and squeeze further in order to create space for an extra passenger to hang on.
The traffic police in the region are also to blame for the matatu problem. Many a times these matatu operators would roll a note of Sh.100 and drop it for the police at the check points.
This makes the police to concentrate more on the money dropped for them than their major duty. Sometimes you will see a police officer move forward to step on the money and pretend to be busy looking at the files until the matatu disappears then bend to pick the money.
If you think of comfort while travelling, don’t travel by matatu in this region as you will be disappointed. And just in case you complain of discomfort, a rude conductor will tell you to buy your own car.
This problem is usually heightened by the impolite touts who scramble amongst themselves to win passengers into a matatu of choice.
Unless a traveler is well decided, these touts would confuse them to enter wrong vehicles and lose their luggage as each tout will want to pick a luggage in attempt to earn a coin out of each passenger who entered the matatu out of his/her effort.
It’s quite unfortunate that sometimes passengers are given a piece of wood ‘sambaza’ to sit on in between the chairs.
Some passengers even agree to stand and hang on the matatu. In this case the passengers are also to blame as the fare is charged uniformly for the sited and standing passengers.
Matatu drivers are always in hurry to get passengers on the way making them to over speed as they compete among themselves hence putting the lives of people at risk.
There is this group of idlers in bus stops who occupy space in vehicles in order to attract undecided travelers to board the matatu with imagination that the vehicle is almost full only to be disappointed when these jokers start getting out one by one as passengers enter.
Seemingly local leaders in the region have not given priority to this problem as for them they are always driven in private posh cars or government vehicles.
The power to control this matatu sector is with us provided we get the support of leaders in the region plus the help from the traffic police officers. We need to remain optimistic that a day shall come when all matatu vehicles will operate smoothly without many inconveniences.