Every day, millions of Kenyans are herded like sheep into public transport vehicles and driven, with little concern for safety or driving etiquette, to their daily destinations. Unfortunately, the matatu or ‘small bus’ industry is the largest segment of the public transport system, despite their horrendous record
of hazardous vehicles, overcrowding passengers, and deadly driving practices. As a result of this reckless form of public transport, Kenya has one of the highest incidents of road accidents in the world! Why is that? Who’s to blame? Is it really the matatu driver’s fault when the owners force them to make a certain level of profit per day? Is it the tout’s fault when the driver demands a constantly full vehicle? Is it the fault of the police who look the other way when crimes of overloading and recklessness on the roads are being committed? Or is it the fault of passengers who don’t really care what laws are broken, just as long as they get to their destination? In the TV/Video message Are We Like Sheep? the issue of unsafe public transportation is discussed. (Click on the right to view the Are We Like Sheep? message.) It asks the rhetorical question to all of Kenya’s commuters, “Are we like sheep?” to which the hoped for reply should be a resounding, “NO!” Entering any matatu is optional, therefore the decision is up to you! Consider the facts of the problem. During a seven-month period from January to July of 2002, the Kenya Traffic Police reported that there were 7,694 accidents on Kenya’s roads. That’s over 36 accidents per day. (Kenya Traffic Police, 2002) Many of the vehicles involved in accidents are unsafe to begin with. Some are uninsured, while still others have drivers and their assistants or ‘touts’ who boldly violate transportation laws. The result is that many passengers have lost their lives through road accidents simply because of carelessness. It is the responsibility of all citizens, as passengers and pedestrians, to help solve this problem. This Web site provides information, which will help explain more clearly the traffic rules and how to help curb this problem. It’s up to each of us to be informed and make a difference!
The Real Issue: A Spiritual Perspective
Matatu transport is the most widely used means of commuting in Kenya, yet the people involved in this business are often rough, abusive, irresponsible and careless. Matatu owners and operators are supposed to ensure that their clients are offered comfortable and safe transport. However, passengers have at times become like sheep in that they simply follow the demand of these owners and operators. You, as a paying passenger, have the right to safe, reliable, and fair public transport. If the vehicle you are preparing to board is unsafe, or breaks traffic laws, or is driven by someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, simply refuse to travel on that vehicle. Be wise. (Matthew 10:16) Furthermore, matatu owners and operators alike need to be reminded to “…do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” (Luke 6:31) If they want to be safe and assured about their safety during their own commute, surely they should understand the need to treat others with the same amount of concern and respect that they would want. Finally, it places a burden on all riders to decide how to be responsible in their choice of transport providers. Waiting fifteen extra minutes for another matatu, or paying a higher fare for a safer ride may be an inconvenience, but it is the kind of socially responsible action that is needed to avoid dangerous consequences. Making a difference requires social responsibility from everyone, and such actions can be contagious for those who witness the boldness of conviction. The prophet Daniel was a man who made a conscious decision to be different. (Daniel 1, 2, 3) He and his colleagues dressed differently, they worshipped differently, and they even ate differently. In the end, they were rewarded by the ruler of the land and honored for taking a stand for their principles. Today, it is difficult to refuse a lift on an overloaded, loud, radio-booming, law-breaking matatu when you’re in a hurry. It is troubling and time consuming to file a police report and it can even be dangerous to accuse the police with taking a bribe or looking the other way. But if the need for a more responsible society and a better transportation system is more important that a quick ride to work each day, what other choice can you make? Simply put, refuse to follow like sheep. Think before you enter and make a difference! Being a responsible rider requires that you know the laws and your rights as a passenger. Click on any of the following questions for help in understanding current laws regarding public transport vehicles. – What are the traffic rules that I should be aware of as a driver or passenger? – What qualifications are necessary for drivers of Public Service Vehicles (PSVs)? – What qualifications are necessary for conductors (touts)? – Are there codes of conduct that govern the behavior of drivers and conductors? – What are the consequences if these rules are not followed? – What are my rights as a passenger on a public service vehicle? – What are my rights as a pedestrian? – What are practical ways that road safety can be enforced? – As a matatu owner, how can I help change the attitude of matatu drivers? – As a passenger, what can I do to help change the attitude of the matatu driver and/or conductor? – As an owner, how can I solve the issue of bribes? – What should I do if I see a policeman taking a bribe? – What should I do if I hit a matatu or a matatu hits my vehicle? – What should I do if I hit a pedestrian? – What are the spiritual issues for matatus and riders to consider?