Kenya’s story cannot be told without a chapter on matatu. Without matatu, travel would be impossible because these are the most used means of transport.
But despite their importance, the dark side of matatu is hard to ignore. The indiscipline in this industry sticks out like a sore thumb. From reckless drivers who intimidate other motorists on the road to rude drivers, some who even pushed their passengers to death out of moving vehicles, Kenyans have seen it all.
Loud, deafening music blares from many matatu, making them ring and sound like moving disco halls – complete with disco lights. In addition, many vehicles are adorned with graffiti, some unsightly.
We’d be lying if we said some people don’t like loud music and graffiti. Along the same lines, however, there are many who hate them.
It is disconcerting that Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja sees nothing wrong. He argues that graffiti and music are part of the culture he grew up in and tells commuters to choose vehicles that are right for them.
In most cases, the vehicles playing loud music and videos are those with graffiti, some of it in bad taste. Some of them play explicit music and videos, including porn videos. Unfortunately, the county government and other government agencies did little to contain them.
These matatu are generally popular with young people, and adults who stray into such vehicles are faced with sounds they would never want to hear and sights they would never want to see. Praising ill-mannered matatu crews will only make life more nightmarish for commuters.
There should be no different matatu for young people and for old people. No one should feel uncomfortable using just any matatu. No one should wonder whether this or that matatu is suitable for adults or teenagers. Our transport system must cater for everyone. This is what happens in civilized societies. Mr. Sakaja should take us in this direction by eradicating despicable behavior in the matatu industry.