Nairobi’s 3.3 million residents commuting needs are no different to any other nation capital. Twice a day the entire population has the urge to move and the ensuing gridlock has little respect of socio-economic status. Granted the middle classes have the use of private vehicles of varying abilities, but they have to vie with the mass of trucks, most of which appear overloaded, un-serviced, have tread-less tyres and belch black diesel smoke with a passion.
Then there are the Matatus.
The privately run amalgam of bus like vehicles, compete for passengers using suicidal hustler/conductors, materialise in many guises. From the ubiquitous Toyota micro bus with a pax capacity of 14 (minimum) to the grander versions of dubious origins, these commuter work horses are the back bone of the city and are completely immune to any traffic regulations. The more entrepreneurial of owners have taken to Matatu bling. Blinding, pulsating LEDs adorn every surface where painted graffiti will allow; some have installed a back row ‘business section’. For a few shillings more, a deignated seat, a play station and ear bleeding, chest thumping music is yours.
When the afternoon traffic finally reaches inevitable gridlock, the horn provides stress relief whilst shouting bonds frustrated driver to driver. Overhead the redundant traffic lights lazily change colours, the speed cameras strobe at the stationary vehicles and the traffic police duck behind their smartphones.
The twenty-five minute drive back to the airport stretched to the full two hours…