In 2016, Dennis Itumbi, the chief Jubilee online spin doctor, also known as the director of Digital communication, brought to our attention, the chapati movement when he joined a group of volunteers, to distribute hot chapos off the pan to feed tens of street kids in Nairobi. With Itumbi in the mix, it came across as a publicity stunt lording the idea of his charitable side on his birthday. Kenyans On Twitter (KOT) were not impressed. However, the chapati movement is more than another of those annoying Jubilee publicity stunts.
Words: Ochieng Kochidi
The first time I rode a Kenya Bus Services (KBS) bus, was in 1975 when my family moved to Nakuru from Kakamega. There was no city bus service in Kakamega, so I found the concept interesting. The buses ran as far as Free-Area on the eastern end of town and as far as the Njoro Cheese factory on the western end of town. The Nakuru buses were colored white with orange striping. Unfortunately, the Nakuru buses were withdrawn from service sometime around 1977, and so I did not enjoy riding a KBS bus again until my family moved to Nairobi in 1978.
KBS buses provided a reliable and affordable bus service between Nairobi and its suburbs. The buses were colored white with green striping. Kenya Bus Service (KBS) was an off –shoot of the Overland Transport Company (OTC) which was a British company. OTC buses were colored white with black striping. OTC buses were long distance and ran between towns while KBS buses were designated for use within the city and its suburbs. KBS offered service between Nairobi City and the outlying suburbs such as Karen, Ngong, Nairobi Airport and Kenyatta University. The buses were clean and well maintained, with their central depot located at the “Tusker “stage in Nairobi.
When a Kenyan living in the West, returns home after over 10 years away and insists on driving on Kenyan roads, simply because they acquired an International driving license, I advise them to curb their enthusiasm. I also inquire about the status of their life insurance and medical cover and whether they have a will wriiten. A driver’s license, will not prepare the outsider for the reality of Kenyan roads. Nairobi’s matatu drivers, for a start, will have even the calmest of drivers radicalised and angst-ridden behind the wheel in under two weeks. A driver’s license is only the beginning of a clattered history of near misses, constant bullying from reckless matatus, aggressive miraa-stocked truck drivers, rush hour grinds, petty cops, and thieving street kids.
So here are 12 things you are sure to encounter once you get behind a wheel in Nairobi.
I swung by my polling station, my village primary school in Sinaga, in Siaya County to ensure that I was on the National Voters Register. I chose the mid-morning because I assumed that the early morning would be buzzing with excited first time voters and political party mobilisers. When I arrived, I thought it was the wrong venue until I noticed the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) officials seated behind a desk under a lone tree in the school compound. A young man and woman in bright green branded reflective jackets, were glued to their phones, like they were surfing Facebook. After confirming my details, I asked them where everyone was and they shot back a blank look. Traffic had been near absent. We made a joke about Kenyans and our last-minute culture.
The next day, I passed by the same venue to collect some details from the primary school and found the same IEBC duo having chapatti and dengu. They looked relieved to see a familiar face and even invited me for lunch. The numbers were not even trickling in at all.
We seldom realize the value of health until we lose it. In a way the nationwide doctor’s strike should have served as an apt metaphor for a sick nation that has taken its health for granted and now has to reckon, late in the day, that a steady daily regimen of panadol tablets cannot keep disease at bay. The doctor’s strike should have shaken the country out this stupor and forced us to ask our leaders some hard questions.
The doctors rallied their numbers to say, “We are sick and tired of getting shafted” and in typical Kenyan fashion, fighting for one’s rights, is the epitome of self-sacrifice, unless you are a politician. Those for whom one fights will first ignore you, then despise you for messing up their day.