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Before Ngware, Olwenda and Peng’


Every so often the news headlines will have something to the effect of “residents of (insert locality of choice) stranded as matatus go on strike.”

Now only important things make news headlines. Except when prezzo is guest anchor. That was calamitous judgment call.I don’t know about you but talking about important national new and matatus in the same breath chokes me. It dries my throat and I hate to give importance to the mayhem that is the matatus industry. It’s easy to look around and think it’s a capital city problem but child, have you been stuck in traffic in Kisumu?

I always thought jams on Kisumu roads are beatific stretches of Mercedes Benz,a littered sight of Toyota NZEs and an average number of Nissan Bluebirds. Until I was stuck in lakeside traffic. It’s not as chaotic as any other but it has a life of its own. In fact, I think it deserves a zip code of its own.

See traffic in Kisumu is not just an issue of cars in plenty and slim roads or few working routes.

No. There is the bulging and very palpable arrogance that is characteristic of Luo presence. It doesn’t matter if a merc is as old as the Greek history, the owner will just randomly decide that he wants to do a jig and the rest of you in NZEs just have to wait. It’s even worse when the cool kids of Migosi get a yes with daddy’s range. The roads come to a standstill for the machinery to pass. When it passes. if it passes.

Automobiles (kindly stretch the mobile accordingly thanks) is not a means of transport to a Luo. It’s a status symbol. It is a sign of his stature. a depiction of the weight of his wallet. Mostly,a classy car is a ladies magnet but that is a secondary perk.

Now Kisumu didn’t enjoy the services of matatus or public transport some time ago.

There was no existence of public service vehicles to the CBD. Nothing. If  you didn’t have a car, you had to improvise. This is to say that traffic was an alien subject in the lakeside city.

I am not sure how true this is but in my mind, this was the time to be a kisumer. For example, you live in Manyatta, you had say your bro in town and you wanted him to come back with the breakfast, because he took the car already. You had to climb the tallest tree in Manyatta wearing a luminous green shirt written what you needed and hold a burning piece of wood. You know, to get his attention or whoever else’s and have him see the message. If you lived further, maybe throw a stone to the direction in which he went. Wrap the stone in a cloth listing the items, climb atop kit mikayi and aim. Or don’t because you are Luo and that is a hereditary gene. In my head this was life back then, I refuse to be wrong. What a ball life was yes?.

And as time went by, necessity invented public transport. Wait; it’s not as conventional as you would think. The first ever public vehicles to be used by kisumers were the mighty Peugeot 404/504s. Yes. A vehicle that if properly fitted carried about a cool 8 humans. I think this was an equality bias for obvious reasons. If the number of passengers is eight that means its two Kisumu women, their pairs of hips and the dual derriere. The men can comfortably fit. It’s the girls I’m wondering about. Inequality much?


Kisumu stage2For what its worth, kisumers probably see a Peugeot 504 and feel bad for the driver. Maybe that is why they have been unable to carry 14 passengers in their 14 seaters.They have to carry like 31 to beat daily targets. Because they started with a five seater that ferried eight passengers to the CBD. Now they have expanded their public transport system and its as bad as it gets. Peng, olwenda, what do they call the bikes? All of these things now have access to the city centre.

I bet kisumers who lived in the Peugeot era miss the calm city. The scattered vehicles that came with a semblance of serenity. I  bet they wish it didn’t grow to the hideous matatus that have killed even the most mundane touch  of sanity in the city centre. Well if you didn’t know, now you know. The next time you see a Peugeot 504 carrying one old man in an Othoro Ng’ong’o cap, tip your hat a little. Respect the journey.



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