My favourite Fela Kuti song is, “Water, No Get Enemy”. There is a hypnotic saxophone that awakens dead nerves carrying through the number. It is from the album “Expensive shit”. In Nairobi, water has enemies and owners. I was thinking about expensive water bottles littering the road sides as I rolled back into the city from the December manenos, to be confronted by the disturbing news of an imminent water shortage. I only get the city supply once a week, so this was not good news. News reports warned; Nairobi to face dry months ahead. Panic!
In the early 90s, I had my first encounter with the unique private taxis of Kisumu known as Kondelez. The name is derived from Kondele which is Kisumu’s version of Soweto township in Johannesburg during the struggle for liberation, the epi-centre of the country’s socio political unrest, second only to Kibera in Nairobi. The taxis would ply from the town centre to Kondele-Carwash and back.
The Kakamega road was potholed and narrow. The taxis, were beat up Peugeot 404 saloons, commonly referred to as “opija”. Passengers would be squashed into them like potatoes in a sack. Five passengers in the back seat plus a tout who practically had his upper torso sticking out of the window. Oddly, looking out for more passengers. Four people would occupy the front seats and the driver usually had only enough leg room to work the pedal. The passenger seated next to him would sometimes be charged with making the gear shift. “Omera!, Rwak ane namba ariyo kanyo” ( My man, engage the second gear).