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How Matatu ‘madness’ has kept Kenyans awed and vexed over the years

Travel blogger Drew Binsky once described Nairobi matatus as disco parties on wheels that snake through the city than they would be a means of transport.

His description was as a result of how the mini-buses are fitted with LED light TV sets and music systems.

City dwellers will always meet in one way or the other with the Kenyan matatus.

Be it one drives a flashy personal car or a motorbike, as long as they are using the Kenyan roads, they always have to interact with the matatus.

In Githurai estate, at the bus terminus the more a matatu is pimped with nice photos and graffiti the quicker passengers fill it up.

“In the morning as long as the music is reasonably loud most will prefer to board the matatu than those that lack music,” James Macharia, a tout says.


According to him, apart from just the music, many passengers also love how the matatus snake through the Thika Superhighway traffic jam.

He said only those who are not on board feel bad when matatu drivers overlap.

“In the eight years I have been in this industry not even a single day have I heard a passenger telling the driver to stop overlapping,” he said.

Geoffrey Mose a University drop out, who now works as a tout, says that many believe that they are bad people but that is not the case.

“Never judge a book by its cover, some of us have been to university but lack of school fees brought us on the roads,” says the 24 year old who dropped out of law school.

He said that he could not go on staying at home and had to look for a way to make money.


Mr Mose says they have to dress casually due to the nature of their work.

“Hauwezi expect nivalie suti na hii job yangu (You can expect me to dress in a suit with the kind of job I do),” he said.

Asked why he assists his driver to overlap and come back to the roads carelessly, Mose says the drivers are always careful only that those they overtake feel offended.

Mr Nicholas Njenga a driver told Nairobi News that they are forced to overlap in order to make more trips to town and get good money in return.

“If the Kenyan Government can address traffic then cases of overlapping will be no more. We always do it for the benefit of passengers and us,” he said.

However, to Valery Wangari, who drives her personal car, their is need to regulate the matatu operations even more.

She says she has to be extra careful especially during rush hours when driving.


“The matatus overlap and in tens of them and when it comes to coming back to the lane the drivers will not mind about you,” she said.

Ms Wangari narrates how she one day tried to navigate her car past a matatu that was overlapping and before she could succeed there was a loud bang on the rooftop of her car.

That alone forced her to stop and let the matatu proceed.

“As the matatu went past me the touts shouted at me and called me all sorts of names,” she said.

According to her, during a traffic jam it is safe for road users to walk on the road than on the pavements where the unruly matatus prefer.

James Makau, who once owned a mini-bus, said that the drivers are always careless. He said that he regrets investing in the transport sector.

“Two days will not end without the matatu driver getting arrested or being involved in an accident. Two years later it was no more and I had to sell it at a throw away price,” he said.