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Culture of Impunity: The Matatu manifestation

"Kenya is a friendly country, going to the coast or in most upcountry towns, Kenyans will smile with you, say hi and even offer help on your way around". The problem with the above statement is that some Kenyans are not happy with it. In short, they are no longer interested in advancing any bit of friendliness; in contrast, they are more interested in making the lives of others difficult. They do this mostly by illegally taking others own, either directly or indirectly. They do this directly by common robbery while indirectly by soliciting for bribes or refusing to follow acceptable procedures when dealing with the public. This behavior has become so widespread in Kenya that it is now called the Culture of impunity.

This became quite clear to me this week in several incidents. In the first incident, traffic police had mounted an operation to net vehicles flouting traffic rules along Ronald Ngala street. Several matatu drivers usually drive across the bank dividing the two way street. Traffic police who tried to flag down this irate drivers had to chase them down a street with the matatus eventually speeding off, escaping unpunished.

In the second incident we were passengers in a 14 seater matatu plying Thika road. The matatu was playing a gospel VCD, and it was about 6.00 a.m. On encountering a traffic jam, the driver decided to drive off the road along the shoulders.Given that it was slightly dark, the driver had not seen some large pot holes along his chosen path, and the vehicle hit them , making it jerk violently. This was received by clicks from a few passengers and slight grumbling from one other passenger. The rest quietly watched as the driver returned to the road, where he limited his antics to frequent switching of lanes along the road, probably humbled by his oversight, but nevertheless without guilt.

Incident number 3 occurred at the bus stop. The bus stop is a place where passengers waiting for vehicles charging normal fares exchange stares with touts keen enough to charge a slightly hire fare. Therefore, when the occasional bus charging normal fares arrive, passengers scramble for it, jostling and stepping over each others toes to get the privilege of paying the normal fare.(14 seaters prefer to charge a slightly higher fare since given that they include crazy driving antics-mentioned elsewhere in this article-in the package) In this incident, a bus charging normal fares arrived, and I scrambled for it. In the process, I miscalculated my steps and ended up almost falling over a certain lady, pushing her in the process. To my astonishment, the lady went out of her way to profusely apologize for the incident, despite her been the victim. To make it more embarrassing, the bus even took a little longer to get enough passengers, and was one of those designed for people with short knees(my knees were in a tight squeeze due to the proximity of the seats to each other). In most bus stops, it is acceptable behaviour to trample , kick and push fellow passengers in order to board a vehicle.

Incident number 4 has been reported from gotissuez.com. One of the members narrates an incident in which a matatu driver decided to drive off the road to beat the traffic jam. As he does so, he speeds down the pavement, hooting at the poor pedestrians. A woman with two school children had to drag them along into a ditch to avoid been run down. Comments on the post indicated that school children along Eastlands face a big threat from such matatu drivers. This is despite the law stating that a driver is liable for running down a child, irrespective of whether the child was in the wrong.Most accidents in Kenya are hit(occur) and run especially when they involve human casualties; either the vehicle speeds off or the driver of the vehicle goes missing. Others involve bribes to cover up for law breaking, or cases where an uninsured vehicle was illegally plying the road.

Incident number 5 involves reports from varied places including gotissuez.com. This incident is not about matatus playing loud music, or obscene music. It is about various matatus playing pornography, without the consent/proof-of-age of any of the passengers. Apparently, this behaviour is taking root in more and more matatus. To what moral decancy have we fallen such that we have let pornography escape from secluded places to be displayed to all and sundry? What makes it worse is the passengers who will sit to comfortably watch this in a public service vehicle!

All this incidents display our culture of impunity and its manifestation in one of the many sectors in the country. The culture, began by the colonialists, has slowly spread down the ranks of the government and out of it to become common place in Kenya. The colonialists adopted it because it served their interests well not to punish wrong doers within the colonial system, especially if the victims were colonial subjects. The first Kenyan ruling class (after independence) saw it fit to adopt the same culture in the quest to quickly enrich themselves. They were so selfish, that they even overlooked the spread of the culture.

The culture is now entrenched in the public. Most of the public will make noise about it's effects in sectors that negatively affect them, but go ahead to adopt and practice it when it is their turn to eat.

Comments

I totally agree with you on this, we are so quick to blame our leaders of fueling the culture of impunity yet we some of us partake of it ...for example it saddens me when I see a passenger standing in a hoppa or someone sharing a seat with the kange or a passenger telling the driver "si upande huku kama wenzako". These are the same people who, after they alight, will start saying that they miss Mr. Michuki as Min. of Transport. Mr. michuki played his part...lets play ours.

Thanks for siting our site :-)bd

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