I thought i would be finalising on the many deadlines i have for my research. But doing this research in Kenya makes it even more unpredictable on: 1) When one should actually finish a research project and; 2) What other interesting research (or otherwise interests may arise during this time. This is obviously a research dilemma- that i have been derailed from writing up my preliminary findings by the need to follow the #CarPoolKe on Twitter and the new website set up in less than 24 hours by my fellow Kenyans to help each other get home. This is due to the strike of the public service vehicles in Kenya, the matatus.
Basically the hashtag and the website are being used by Nairobians to locate find or offer car rides to and from various parts of the city. This is a brilliant idea, and more so, a show of oneness in a country where social media has become part of the solutions to most of the public problems. It reminds me of #KenyansforKenya initiative which raised hundreds of thousands for hunger-stricken kenyans in less than a month.
What about the Matatu Strike? I was actually ignorant of the fact that we now have new Traffic Rules in the country, the reason for the #MatatuStrike in various parts of the city. I am a very careful pedestrian, motorist (co-driver!). After all, after living in another country for over an year, i am probably feeling i know most of the important traffic rules- like using a zebra crossing, checking right, left, and right again, and checking the traffic lights (or the Kenya Police in our case!). However, the amendment of Section 12 of the Cap 403 of the Laws of Kenya approved by the President in early November now means we cannot travel! The matatu operators are on strike in response to these new rules as summarised by one of the Kenyan bloggers, Autoportal:
If you are stuck in the house, like i am, please do get on your phone and check out where the next ride would be, what security details you need to be aware of before accepting any kind of car pooling. if you are driving, do get on the Car Pool Ke site and offer a ride to someone, or just call a few of your friends and take them home.
As for the matatu strike and adherence to the New Traffic Rules, i wait and watch if we can keep the rule of law for the sake of our safety on the road, to reduce the death rates arising from careless driving, but most importantly, to have some sanity in the Kenya public transport system.
As an environmentalist i am a strongly support public transport to reduce our carbon emissions through fuel consumption. However i do understand that most Nairobians would rather take up a loan to own a car just to avoid the hectic mornings and evenings on the public transport- the traffic jam, the unpredictable changes in fares, and the overly rude and services we receive from the matatu operators besides the poorly maintained vehicles!
I recall over an year ago (almost two years now) another law was passed, that Kenya would no longer import the 14-seater PSVs. This was in addition to the Michuki Rules which had brought some sanity to the public transport system in the country. I am yet to see their decline on our roads, and our public transport has not improved yet. I am happy i can now use a bus to and from town, but they are far from being efficient and safe as public transport. The other day, my friend was mugged in a matatu as the driver and the conductor watched, 'we are in business madam', that was their response!
I wonder who should be on strike- the matatu operators or the pedestrians- we deserve better services- don't we?
Precisely, this is my research dilemma!