Image by Nina Stock from Pixabay

The Matatu industry folks are the masters of the game of cards. They are smart. They are quick, very resilient and sometimes, even cunning. Now here’s the thing about them, they know for a fact that you need them. But they also know when to lure you into their game when need be.

You get to the matatu stage at 6 or 7 am in the morning, and the stage is already crowded with all manner of people. The matatus are scarce and with scarcity, comes one other thing, MONEY. At this time, the conductors won’t even look you in your eyes. The moment the matatu stops at the stage, they say what they need to say, without blinking their eyes. “Tao express, 100” and because the mwananchi is desperate to get to work early or else their salary will be sliced, they might as well just board the matatu as is. You will see some reluctant faces, some trying to whisper to the conductor, in a desperate attempt to get him to be more reasonable with the price. But this is not ‘the right talking’ moment. More times than not, the conductors are not interested in hearing your sad tone that early in the morning. So, they allow in who can afford it. The rest wait until the next humane conductor stops.

On other mornings, the matatus are so scarce, everyone is scrambling into the matatu like a tag of war. Some go further by jumping in through the window, and by the time everyone is settled down, we all need a minute to straighten our shirts and skirts and take a breath. I know, the struggle is real!

At this point, the matatu folks know very well what they are doing. There are totally no compromises, no humanity at this point. On other mornings, they will listen to your desperate bargain, ask you to board and when the time to pay your fare comes, they tell you, ‘Don’t you know it is rush hour?!’ My friend, if you had given the conductor more than the fare you bargained, best believe you will not get the change you expected or not get any change entirely. And because this money was budgeted, you try to reason with him, ‘Tuliongea’ or ‘Lakini ulikubali’ but your attempt will not be fruitful. So you attempt using your aggressive, firm tone but you know what? That doesn’t scare them either. In the end, you get tired and keep quiet or they ask you to alight before your actual destination. But do you know which the most annoying scenario is? You talk to the conductor and agree on the fare. You board the matatu, and next two stages ahead, the conductor you talked to alights. He wasn’t even the one in charge and now the next one who comes in doesn’t have time to listen to your blame story.

Darwin’s theory of ‘survival is for the fittest’ makes sense in so many ways. Like in this case, we are all desperate Kenyans, barely making ends meet. The economy is rough on everyone. But who suffers the most? The middle and lower class of the society. Barely anyone wants to be the next Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi. We are all hungry. We are all hustlers. So it really isn’t ‘their’ fault to spike the fare prices in an unreasonable manner when they are just trying to survive too right? At least that’s how some think.

I mean, how many times have you boarded a matatu during morning or evening rush, or during the rain season or holiday season or a matatu strike, and you are told 100 bob every stage. EVERY. SINGLE. STAGE. That means it doesn’t matter if my stage is fifteen minutes away or one hour away, we are all paying the same.

The ones who get it the roughest are the visitors from other parts of the country or abroad especially during the holiday season. Funny thing, it is always very easy to spot a visitor because oblivion and confusion is always on their faces. They will constantly remind the conductor to drop them at their stage, keenly staring at the road ahead. Or the instances where we have teachers’ conferences here in Mombasa and suddenly the prices are doubled for every person, whether a local or a visitor. It is as though the teachers are coming with some funds to share with the community over here. I mean, what’s even the explanation for such manipulation?

Now flip the coin, to during the non-rush hours like between 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m., you will see totally different people. Same faces, just different behaviour. As soon as they see you coming towards the stage, the conductor will come for you. Sometimes, the driver even reverses his car to where you are. In another second, there are three or four other conductors, all trying to convince you into their matatu. One will try holding your hand, another will tell you their matatu is about to leave; only two people remaining before it fills up (by two they actually mean five or seven people), another will offer you a way lower fare price. If you came to the stage with a bodaboda, they will rush to pay off the bodaboda guy so you are left with no choice but board their matatu. They will plead with you. They will remind you that ‘you are our daily customer’. Another will tell you the driver is calling you or your friend is in their matatu. They will fight for you. If you have low self-esteem, they could actually make you feel that you matter. And yes, you definitely do because their survival game is affected by your coins. Yet, they could crash that same self-esteem they built moments ago by selling you off to another conductor for only 20 bob 😀

Their faces turn from 0 to 100 real quick. They know how to navigate around the police system. They know when to be aggressive. When to be swift. When to be stern. When to be greedy; overloading the matatu with passengers until people are suffocating. When to be friendly. When to be kind. When to be empathetic. Of course this is not how it is with all of them. Some are more understanding of the struggle fellow Kenyans are in too and some are friendly and reasonable regardless of the time. However, most times than not, they are just playing their cards.

Funny thing is, most Kenyans with white collar jobs perceive the matatu industry to be of a lower grade; for the illiterate, poor, uncivilized people. However, the money that matatu drivers and conductors make is way more than what an average Kenyan earns in a white collar job. How they use the money is a different story but we’ve had students educate themselves throughout college using the money earned being a matatu conductor/driver.

So next time you want to pity them or underestimate them, think twice. You are probably being played more than you realize it.


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I do not consider myself a proud Kenyan nor do I say, ‘Navumilia kuwa Mkenya’. Let’s just say, Kenya has its moments. More like a love-hate relationship filled with spontaneous mood swings; 0-100 real quick! There’s a lot to be sad about and even more to be angry for. I mean, we are the kind of country whereby you study four years of Journalism only to spend the next three years searching for a job in the media while a comedian ends up swooping that same job you’ve been craving at a radio station. To be fair, the comedians also struggle in their own way to get where they get to but it becomes illogical when these opportunities are not fairly and equally spread out among the masses. Definitely, ours is the ‘survival is for the fittest’ kind of economy whereby the resources are so limited, we are all trying to grab this one opportunity available.

It is that kind of country you graduate Engineering with honours but end up selling water within your neighbourhood, or even worse, you have to stand with a placard at the middle of the highway, stating your qualifications so that hopefully, JUST HOPEFULLY, someone isn’t too busy complaining about the traffic jam or the poor water drainage system and reads your placard. Thereafter, this someone is placed within his/her the grace of the Lord and decides to help you in some way. Or rather, take your photo and tweet about it. The power of social media I tell you!

It is also the kind of country where someone with no education whatsoever could end up being more successful than you’d ever dream to be because they know someone who knows someone who is in power or, they are super talented at sucking money out of people’s bank accounts in open day light. Yes, corruption and conning is in our country, a job of its own calibre. I am still talking of the unemployment disaster because it is really really bad out here. I mean, REALLY bad. 

Now don’t get me started on the cost of living, the economy, the health industry, the plight of the lower class, the struggles of the youth…the list is endless. Kenyans are sufferers; at least the majority are. A few months back, the form fours completed their final examinations with shouts and screams of joy, spraying the walls and their uniform with colours; they just ended what they call ‘a stressful era’ and all Kenyans can think of is ‘Should we tell them the truth or should we wait wapumzike? *Insert many laughing emojis*’ I mean, that alone says a lot about the despair Kenyans are at. We are mostly hopeless of our country than we are hopeful.

But here’s the thing about Kenyans: we are the most resilient beings. It amazes me. It awes me. Kenyans make fun of their own misery such that it gives them strength to actually push on to the next day. Kenyans live on the spirit, ‘Our lives are so much a tragedy, it has become a comedy.’ We laugh a lot. We perhaps make the best come-backs, best replies on twitter and memes of every other event that happens. We make jokes about our ridiculous leaders. We joke about the cost of living. We joke when we are robbed, singing ‘bella Ciao’ like a bank didn’t just lose millions. We joke when we cry. We joke when we succeed. We joke when we fail and when everything seems to be at dead end. People would call us insane just by the way we react with laughter at E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Yet in my opinion, this kind of spirit is what makes Kenyans stand tall and walk through the storm despite the odds. We laugh because despite saying ‘this is life’, we still wake up the next morning to try again, make protests and demands on the streets, make noise, call out to the leaders, fail, fail miserably, yet we will do it again next morning.

Amidst all the despair and hopelessness, we create our own happiness. We see a man eating his githeri from a plastic bag throwing them into his mouth like groundnuts whilst waiting in queue to vote, and we decide ‘hey! That is something!’ And there came about the hashtag #GitheriMan who ended up uniting and bringing us laughter at a very tense period. We all tune in on TV to watch Eliud Kipchoge take on the ‘No Human is Limited’ challenge and we all leave everything aside, to watch history being made. To watch a fellow Kenyan shine because God knows, we desperately need a win. Soon after, we make ‘No Human is Limited’ memes because we are Kenyans and we thrive on laughter. We see our president look up in the sky at the planes being displayed during Mashujaa day at the revamped mama Ngina drive and we decide to quote it as ‘Na hii hapa juu, Mheshimiwa Rais, ni gharama ya maisha *Insert laughing emojis*’ We still retweet hilarious posts by fellow Kenyans with the hashtag #KenyaSihamiiii. We stand together with King Kaka as he performs his #WajingaNyinyi spoken word, giving us all something to ponder on.

We come together to mourn during tragedies and we celebrate our fellow Kenyans whenever we get a chance to. We left all our differences aside when Miriam Kighenda and her 4-year old daughter drowned at the Likoni Ferry tragedy, we prayed for them and mourned the loss. When the Ethiopian airlines crashed, we were devastated. The loss was unfathomable and we cried together. Just as much as we come together every Olympics and marathons to celebrate our very talented athletes, breaking records every now and then.

I don’t think we are at a good place as a country. The misery definitely supersedes the good done for Kenyans. However, we can’t close our eyes to how brilliant and strong Kenyans are. We fall, again and again and again. But we always, always find a way to survive. We innovate. We come together. We stand up for our rights. We make demands. We start our own businesses. We hope despite the hopelessness. We help when we can. We make a difference in our communities. Yet most importantly, we have learned how to find laughter even in the darkest of moments.

Life is definitely tough, not just for Kenyans but many other Africans as well. Politics is a dirty game. Our leaders are mostly a huge fail. Opportunities are like a blue moon. But if resilience was a human being, then Kenyans would be it!


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Photo Courtesy: MTY Organization

Hey Amedo,

Assalam aleikum,

I would have said Ahmed but then who recognizes you with that name anymore? Haha, you are all grown Mashallah. I hope that’s how it is spelt? The Mashallah I mean and the assalam aleikum up there…haha what do I know anyway? I’m just this old pal from upcountry living in Mombasa. I remember hearing your parents use such phrases so many times…ah, your parents. I miss them, you know that? I wish they could see how grown and smart you are right now. Your parents and I, we had this special kind of relationship. I bet you wouldn’t remember much though. You were just eight when that unfortunate accident happened right? *Sigh*

When I first came to Mombasa twenty years ago, I remember how warmly I was received by your parents into this neighbourhood. I still remember your dad, tall and lean, with such a loud laughter, welcoming me like I was a long-lost brother. Your mother, on the other hand, prepared dinner for both me and my wife that night. “I bet you are tired,” she said in her shy voice. I was a bit puzzled with the reception. We were different people, different tribes, different cultures, different religions…what could have made them so comfortable to bond with us immediately? My wife was a bit suspicious at first. You know, we had heard of rumours about the Mombasa genies and how witchcraft is so common and human sacrifices are made to become ‘viti’. Well, we never even understood what those viti were. As far as we knew it, viti are chairs. Nonetheless, my wife, she was a bit worried at first. But then by the next three to four months, we had interacted with almost the entire neighbourhood. We came to learn that this is just how Mombasa is. Warm and lovely; feels like home. It is why we decided to remain here longer. We decided, this is the best place to raise our children.

After your parents passed away in the accident, your divorced aunt moved in to take care of you and your younger siblings. Your aunt was another very lovely lady. She is charming and full of life; the kind to hear her voice sweeping the compound as she sang famous taarab songs. She is the one who taught my wife how to cook biriani and pilau and all these tasty coasterian foods. I never get enough of these foods.

It was all going well for us until Timmy died. You remember Timmy don’t you? Sometimes I see you walk by my home and I yearn to talk to you, ask you if you remember him, if you remember how you two used to play football together, or how you used to stay up late playing PS until your dad would come force you out of our homestead. If you remember that your birthdays were only two weeks apart and that today, he would be 22 years old like you are. Perhaps that would lessen how much I miss him. But then every time I want to start up a conversation, I see the lines form on your forehead. I see how quick you respond just so as you can leave, how bothered you seem by just calling out your name. I never understand it. Maybe it’s my age; old folk what does he want? Or maybe my skin colour or maybe you just don’t recognize me anymore. Maybe…the maybe’s are endless.

Timmy…my only son, my lovely boy, died ten years ago. Both of you were just twelve years old. My son, he was killed. Do you remember? Do you remember the shrieks of pain? The screams? The tear gas, the fear, the stones, the chaos? Do you remember the 2007 post-election violence? You were young but you couldn’t forget how Timmy died right? Your best friend, your brother from another mother, could you? There was too much smoke, wails, angry protests and there we were, caught up right at the middle of it all. Our neighbourhood had always been peaceful, serene…what was happening now? How could everyone forget our brotherhood so fast? We were among the few “outcasts” in the compound. After more than ten years in Mombasa, we suddenly became “outcasts” because our skin colour was darker, our mother-tongue accent betrayed us and our features were clearly “not of here” and that was enough reason to have knives stabbed into our bodies. Because of my origin, my vote automatically meant someone and some party, and at that point, my tribe betrayed me, betrayed us all. We were robbed and deeply injured that night…but one more thing, we lost our son.

It took me three months to heal my wounds and my wife’s’ but we still have one wound that will always remain a wound; unhealed and it just has one word, Timmy. Your aunt has been there for us, all this time, for better for worse, just like we stood by her side whenever she couldn’t afford some bread to feed you all. But you worry me. You my son, worry me.

I see how opinionated you’ve become. How strong and firm you are. It is good. But yet it could be dangerous. I see you sit with your mates barazani, I see the fury in your eyes, the anger in your tone. I see you young men discuss politics like this is a battle field and you want to win at whatever cost. I see you argue, I see the clenched fists and the tribalistic insults. I see how your friends look at me, how they purposely shout out “Kila mtu arudi kwao” when I pass by. I see how you all are invested so much in politics you forget you are supposed to be friends. I see how some of you have stopped talking to each other because “he is pro-someone” and you are “anti-them”. I see how much belief and trust you have kept towards these politicians.

I know it is your right to have an opinion, to vote and to be politically affiliated. Yet I want to remind you my son, when your parents died, I was the one who came to your home and took you for the next few nights, I want to remind you that Timmy was your friend despite me and your parents having different cultures and political opinions. I want to remind you that when we were stabbed, it was your aunt who washed off the blood in our house. That she was the one who nursed our wounds like she was paid for it.

I want to remind you, that during those ugly, dark moments it wasn’t my favourite politician who stood by me, by us. It wasn’t my tribe, or my mother-tongue accent that helped me through those difficult times. It wasn’t your favourite politician either. It was you and your people. It was my neighbours, my friends, my associations who have totally different opinions from mine. But we knew that friendship or any other form of relationship should never be sold for the sake of dirty politics. This game is too dirty. My son, I see how you and your friends are too aggressive in this whole politics business, remember, the game is too dirty, too cheap for your hands.

I am so proud of who you are, what you’ve become; an educated focused man who wants change. I guess we all need the change, don’t we? Just never forget that no change comes from animosity, rivalry, hatred or stubbornness. Remember that for better for worse, none of the politicians will be at your doorstep to help you with your personal problems other than your personal friends and relations. I need you to never forget the humanity joining us; these small joyful moments we have shared between us all; as neighbours, as brothers, as co-existing human beings, as people of the Coast, whether by nature or nurture, as people of Kenya. Never forget that we are naturally bonded as humans before politics ever divide us.

This coming election, my son, remember my words. Remember that chaos will never beget change. That your voice in the call of peace is important and necessary. Remember to hold your friends close together, in unity and preach to them peace like you preach politics and politicians. Remember my son, no more bloodshed, no more Timmy’s, no more crying over spilled milk. Let’s all hold hands and pray for peace and unity. Remember we are One Kenya, One people. This elections, as you cast your vote (or not), remember peace, peace, peace!! May God protect us all. God bless Kenya!

Your next door neighbour,
Baba Timmy.


Photo Courtesy: https://youth4developmentkenya.files.wordpress.com

What is more interesting than standing together for Kenya that is united by all means? What is more interesting than a walk that preaches for peace and propagates for unity of all? The Dumisha Amani Peace Walk is a walk organized by MTY organization in conjunction to both MUHURI and Manyunyu community. It will bring together more than 200 youth to propagate the message of peace and unity. The peace walk shall start at treasury square and it will also entail performances by artists, holding hands pledges, peace mascots, security, media coverage and lots of fun, love and unity. Not signed up yet, text 0705 586 076. CHAGUA AMANI!!



Photo Courtesy: zipo.co.ke

Something silly about Kenyans; they never learn. I mean, wasn’t 2007 post-election the biggest lesson for us as a country? Seeing the CORD anti-IEBC demos in Kisumu is just like watching the prediction of 2017 post-elections. It is dreadful. It is scary. It is alarming.

I have never been a fan of politics. In fact I never write about it. For a humanitarian, politics is just a filthy cloth to touch let alone wear. Although humanity is connected to politics such that it is best when they intertwine (i.e. good leadership and kind souls can do wonders to our country) these two things rarely ever come together over here. I am not politically affiliated, never have been and i’m not planning to be.

For the past few days the headlines have been about the CORD demos in Kisumu and how 8 Kenyans were shot by the police. Among those 8 injured is baby Jeremy who is just 6 years old. This angel at such a tender age already knows what it means to have a bullet in your body. This poor child has suffered the pain of having a hole dug in his body. He knows what it feels like going into the operation room, to be cut and to be bloody. You see his face and he is expressionless. But do you know lack of expressions is more saddening than it’s visibility. Seeing him cry means he is in pain but seeing him speechless means he is still trying to fathom what just happened. He is trying to let it sink in. He is drowning in the excruciating pain. His poor single mother doesn’t even know how to handle the situation.

But why, why don’t Kenyans ever learn??!

2007 post election violence clearly showed us what it really means to be a Kenyan. We were oppressed. We; the common Mwananchi. The local man who doesn’t have any relation to any politician. It was us who became IDP’s. Us who lost our mothers and fathers, our children and saw as our properties got burnt right in front of our eyes. It was us who were left with scars that will remain part of us for eternity. It wasn’t Raila or Uhuru or Kibaki or any other politician. It was us. They weren’t even scratched by all that happened. It was our floors filled with blood, tear gas, random gun shots and screams of agony. When will we ever learn that we are being our own enemies; digging our own graves??!

The demos in Kisumu have even affected the schools and businesses such that people and children are scared to go on with their daily activities. So now the minister of internal affairs has declared that there shouldn’t be any more demos due to the chaos taking place but will this rule be followed? And you know Kenyans hehe so long as it is not him or her who was injured, they will still appear the next time they are called for such.

If we are not careful, we are slowly creating another war to occur come next year elections. All this seems to be a shadow. If we don’t take it slow, we will definitely have more bloodshed, tear gas, police hitting Kenyans like dogs and more torture. Politicians are not your fathers to come nurse you when you are in the hospital after being shot from the chaos they started. Yes, it is true that it is our votes that count, that it is our votes that makes a good leader take the seat but let’s learn to play our cards well just like they play their cards marvelously. Be smart. Act smart. Learn how to see through your politicians. Be your neighbour’s keeper, and not the reason they are having a funeral. And most importantly, be a loyal Mwananchi to your fellow Wananchi.