Kenyans in Pain: Until they change their attitudes and learn how to drive
There is no denying that traffic gridlocks are annoying and cause road rage. Motorists hoot, sweat, make calls, curse, swear and throw tantrums as they inch forward or abruptly apply the brakes to avoid hitting vehicles whose drivers have dozed off.
At such times, motorists blame everything and anything on the moon, the rain, the sun, the stars, one-night-stand partners, the Marriage Act 2014, bribe-taking traffic police officers, school-going children... you name it, they blame it.
It has been claimed that police officers deliberately interfere with the flow of traffic and cause gridlocks so that hawkers can sell their wares and give them a cut. Neither party has denied or accepted this claim, but this is Kenya, and you are never far from the “supernatural,” considering it is normal for roadside mechanics to appear out of non-existent foliage with enough equipment to undertake the most comprehensive repairs — or even paint a car — when vehicles fail to crank up after being switched off by motorists in a bid to save fuel.
Then there are the Second World War-era tow trucks that drop from the sky when an errant driver gets arrested and does not have enough money to grease the palms of the ill-trained, overworked and poorly-paid traffic police officers who see every driver as fair game.
Kenyans should accept their lot in the spirit of “accepting and not moving on” and come to terms traffic gridlocks, especially in Nairobi, where they are only getting worse. This is thanks to the much-hyped increasing middle-class with enough disposable income to pay off the external and internal debts of all East African countries.
Nairobi motorists can scream murder and go atwitter till the con artists stop tampering with the odometers of their vehicles, but the fact is that blaming the county’s chief executive will not ease traffic jams since Kenyans treat regulations as suggestions.
It is common knowledge that on Nairobi roads, only the meek are patient, and that only the idle observe the multi-billion shilling Chinese toys that pass for traffic lights. The majority of passenger service vehicles are exempted from all forms of sanity, and oh, don’t users of mass transport just love that!
Then, thanks to the 2010 Constitution, there are the never–ending cavalcades of politicians whose random acts on unkindness have consigned many Kenyans to their graves as they discover that basic necessities are luxuries while the politicians insist that presumed luxuries, such as cars, are necessities they cannot breathe without.
It would be unfair not to recognise backstreet driving schools for their undying spirit of ensuring that all Kenyans have the power to drive and all that appertains thereto by offering the cheapest ways of acquiring that archaic-looking document known as a driver’s licence.
Actually, it is hard to understand the hullabaloo about traffic jams considering that Kenyans’ minds get narrower as roads become wider. Besides, Kenyans are averse to change and any move to improve things must be met with resistance that borders not only on arrant idiocy, but inexplicable stupidity.
Kenyans never shy away from claiming to be superior to their neighbours at all levels of existence, yet no country in the region openly exhibits more illiteracy than Kenya — or rather, on its roads, where only the uneducated are set free with unclear instructions that they must cause chaos, otherwise corruption will be criminalised.
It is only in Kenya that motorists want tens of thousands of other road users to feel the effects of their non-observance of traffic regulations after their vehicles get minute scratches and they leave them bang in the middle of the road as they frantic endless calls while waiting for traffic police officers to come and ascertain their collective air-headedness and tell them to drive off.
Did I write that such drivers should be severely punished for committing crimes against the nation-state, considering that there are patients who probably die on the way to hospitals, students who miss lessons and business-folk who lose out on deals — just to name a few — because of them?
Kenyans make their traffic gridlocks, and they should be prepared to sleep on them till they get the rude awakening that they have to change their attitudes — and learn how to drive.
Author: CLAY MUGANDA