Matatu DNA Is In Many Of Us

There is a difference – I dare posit, between observing and seeing. Similarly, there is a difference between hearing and listening.

I do hope that the authorities, particularly those in law enforcement, will listen to this post, not merely hear what I have to say.

‘Impunity’ is a word that has been bandied a great deal in our country. It’s resounding in prime time news, debate shows, in our local dailies and ubiquitous radio waves. A day doesn’t pass before one hears the word.

The greatest impunity in our society is not the obscure yet wanton graft that transpires within the walls of public institutions. It’s not in the ‘briefcase’ wheeler-dealing that takes place away from our prying eyes and cocked ears.


The greatest impunity is that which manifests itself everyday under our very noses. It’s in the streets. It’s in how we drive, in turning public roads and footpaths into small open-air shops, in carting our mikokotenis on the wrong side of the road, real examples are inexhaustible.

Do you see my point?

Our roads are indisputably the most famous theaters of impunity. Matatu drivers bully us everyday and everywhere. They overlap, make sudden stops, drive with reckless abandon, break virtually every traffic rule on the book. The public is helpless because matatu drivers and a growing number of private motorists have triumphed over those responsible for maintaining law and order.

My 4-year old son doesn’t see or hear about the runaway white-collar graft happening in side parastatals. But I fear that he and many other kids are growing up learning that it’s ok to be a lout; that being rebellious on the road and in the streets is cool.

It is this visible impunity that the authorities should resolutely rein on not merely because of the illegality involved, but also due to the fact that the tacit tolerance by law enforcers is encouraging a general state of matatu-type lawlessness in our society. When a generation learns that its society condones bad manners, it gets emboldened to disregard every fabric of the law with care-free abandon.

A parent striving to raise law abiding kids is looking up to you public authorities charged with bringing about law and order to diligently play your part.

But, are you listening?

As for matatu drivers and reckless private motorists in these days of incessant traffic jams – I have a practicable idea that will bring about order on the road (particularly in the major urban towns).

Central and county government agencies are increasingly on social media. It’s not lost on me that electronic evidence is now admissible in courts of law in Kenya.

So how about initiating a campaign allowing citizenry to share photo or video evidence of offending motorists on Twitter and Instagram with the authorities? For this to work, just adopt a hashtag that can be used, say, #NyumbaKumiReport, and then feedback a case reference number within an hour to the person reporting an incident. 

If I had it my way, I would see to it that the prosecuting authorities via mobile money share a percentage of the resultant fines (upon successful prosecution) with the individual who volunteers incriminating evidence. Sounds far-fetched? I don’t think so. It can be done. Stay with me.

All you do is start off an online portal on which any adult can register. One should even be able to register anonymously, provided that they disclose their mobile numbers, Twitter and Instagram handles. They can bare their identities privately should they be required to testify in court.

Overall, collaborative efforts are needed to stem impunity. Use of social media whistle-blowing tactics, especially where there is indisputable, ready incriminating evidence can go a long way in encouraging a law-abiding society.

Of course, corruption has a way of fighting back any initiatives that threaten its very existence. It takes nose-to-the-grindstone guts to adopt and oversee ideas such as the one described here.

Matatu drivers have guts, and they don’t care. To get rid of our increasingly matatu-type society, we need a leader who similarly doesn’t care, and has guts. I care much about our country. I don’t care what morally acceptable methods we use to become a great Society.

We have been ‘business as usual’ for far too long. It’s about time the authorities concerned became ingenious and employed business unusual tactics to overcome the threats to our societal well-being. By publishing this post, I’ve played my role as a private citizen.

If you believe nothing is impossible, I am listening.


3 thoughts on “Matatu DNA Is In Many Of Us

  1. caspar

    I agree. But I think we should not leave it to the leaders. We need a concerted campaigns by the ordinary citizens.

  2. fsbp0


    This is a great description of how far as a society we have fallen. The term “impunity” means “exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines”. Since time immemorial civilized societies created rules that govern how people co-exist. Moses-led team in the desert needed some code that would determine how man interacted with man and with God. It worked well to resolve disputes and ensure people respected each other’s property and life.

    Impunity is rather a loose and vague term when placed out of context. When we attribute a mkokoteni pusher’s actions solely to impunity without interrogating the underlying issues that manifest themselves as forms of impunity-brewed mannerisms, we may lose vital opportunity to attack the cause from the root.

    Let’s look at the mkokoteni pusher again or the matatu driver. These guys have a job. They wake up at 3 am in the morning and have targets. Our roads are terrible with traffic jams at certain hours. These guys must do their part by certain times to meet their targets, failure to which their take home for the day is diminished. The police harass them all the time and share with them a revenue they hardly took part in making. They are basically a frustrated lot.

    Let’s go higher up to our VIPs on the road. They serve us so they need to pass through traffic as quickly as possible. Two contrasting cases but the impact is the same on the road. Jumping ahead of the queue while raping all the rules that the rest of the majority dutifully attempt to follow.

    But this issue goes deeper to our socio-economic and political set up. Hypothetical case is growing up as teenagers, the rule is be home by 7PM. The exemption came for the one who is a favorite to dad or mum, either because they are more obedient or better performing in school. If they ask to be allowed to stay out till 9PM, dad or mum closed one eye because of the soft spot. What does that do to the others? They rebel. Internally they fight back for equal rights to impunity. I guess that is the case with Matatu and VIPs.

    Fighting this menace must be multi-pronged. What you have suggested is short and mid-term measures to deal with evidence of a deeper lying problem. The longer term is instituting ways to be proud law abiding citizens. We must teach our children the beauty of obeying the law and being subject to it. We must demonstrate to that we have the mettle to live out the laws we create for ourselves.

    Impunity has to do with punishment. When we are stuck in a race to hunt down those who got away with it, we forget to actually recognize those who pridefully submitted to it. Perhaps we need to redefine the true value of being Kenyan. Does getting ahead of the queue make us better than others? Does patiently waiting in the queue invalidate our importance as citizens of the nation? Sadly at the moment, both those who get away with it and those who watch them get away with it are caught in the same rut, to punish or to avoid punishment. What if we changed our mindset and instead occupied our psyche with the value of the law to us as a society? It may just unlock hitherto carried on mannerisms of some members of society who have grown up getting away with it…..

  3. makagutu

    This needs to be said loudly.
    A car dealer along ngong Rd, I can’t recall their names at the moment, almost sold us a car under similar pretexts. They had rewound the odometer by a cool 100k km. When we asked them, they showed no shame nor remorse!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s