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We Need To Completely Re-Examine How We
Manage Our Public Transport In This Country

Coastweek -- Towards the end of last week, we saw clashes between boda boda riders and matatu operators in Kondele in Kisumu County, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

 It was all about what I have been writing about over the last few weeks - the lawlessness of the public transport sector in this country and especially the urban commuting and perambulation services.

The incident in Kondele started off in the usual with a boda boda rider being involved in an altercation with a matatu.

It is not yet clear who hit who with the matatu driver saying the rider smashed into the rear of the matatu and the rider saying that he was knocked over by the matatu.

In any case a bike is the weaker of the two and in both circumstances; it is the rider who will come off worse – with damage potentially to both the human being and the ride.

This is the law of the jungle and cannot be changed.

Boda boda riders have to accept that they start off disadvantaged as far as the pecking order on the road is concerned so whatever accident happens they will have the greater damage.

The only way that they can get away with minimum damage is to follow all that the law requires them to do.

There are many millions of people who have ridden motorbikes in the years since they were invented and licensed to be on the road.

The experience of these many millions have shaped the rules about what riders should do to protect themselves, their passengers and the motorbike.

The rules in Kenya follow the global rules and are indeed good for our riders too.

What we have written about over the last couple of weeks is no rocket science – it is just a reaffirmation of what is expected we should do in Kenya as well.

Most of the rest of the world does it.

That someone would react to the hoard mentality of the boda boda riders was simply a matter of time.

The riders have managed to get away with murder when they have taken the law into their own hands.

Our law enforcement agencies do not have sufficient muscle and technology to make arrests and provide swift justice.

Kudos to matatu operators of Kondele for reacting positively and creating a scene that many of us imagined would happen one day but did not expect to happen so soon.

It is only the matatu drivers – who have a similar mentality - and convening power – that can counteract the behaviour of the boda boda riders.

Not even the police force can do it so efficiently.

The boys in blue (or jungle fatigues for this kind of operation) will only respond when all hell breaks loose and someone is needed to restore law and order to crowds.

This is what they are best at.

Create a situation that involves many people fighting, throwing stones and other missiles, starting fires and damaging property in a public area - then the boys in blue appear in their Lorries by the dozen ready with their live bullets and tear gas.

They now also have water cannons as well.

I do not know what happened to rubber bullets as these are actually quite effective in getting people to quickly put up their arms in surrender.

My concern is that what happened in Kondele last week is setting the stage for future confrontations across the whole nation between these two groups of miscreant road users.

Whilst we are slamming the riders for not obeying the laws, the same is true about most matatu drivers.

We will see burning of matatus increase and also creating funeral pyres using motorbikes become a common occurrence.

This potential anarchy must be nipped in the bud.

It could potentially take lives of innocent wananchi who are caught in the cross fire between boda boda riders and matatu drivers.

The Ministries responsible for transport and security must quickly rise to the occasion and take the bull by the horns.

I would also like to see a major shift in who conducts the training for the operators of the vehicles and motorbikes.

We should make the Ministry under which vocational training falls to comes into the fray as I believe and insist that training the drivers of matatus and the boda boda operators should be made vocational training and not simply qualifying for a license.

These people are starting or working in a specific vocation and they should be adequately prepared for the vocation.

A rider or driver is the CEO of the unit which they are operating.

They need to manage a lot more than simply driving the unit they have been given to operate.

They have a whole series of responsibilities that are multiplied by the number of people they carry.

These riders and drivers need to learn about how to work safely – that is driving and doing so defensively.

They need to learn about the proper care and basic operational maintenance of the ride – when they can do it themselves and when it needs professional attention.

They need to learn about their responsibility – and accountability – for the safety of their customers and also their tool of trade, the vehicle and motorbike.

They need to understand the value and returns expected from the operation of whatever they are in charge of.

I strongly propose that the training and licensing and continuous improvement courses for matatu drivers, boda boda riders, lorry drivers and operators of all commercial vehicles whatever the size and capacity should be completely rethought and taken away from driving schools and put into vocational training institutions across the country starting with basic training at county polytechnics for certification and going up to diploma courses for specialised circumstances and those who wish to progress further in the profession.

The apex should be degrees in transportation and logistics management or whatever the curriculum developers will come up with.

We need to completely relook at how we manage public transport in the country and have a generic makeover of the system and I offer to help the powers that be to work this out.

I hope and trust that there are many like-minded professionals that would be willing to put a little bit of time to make this significant change to Kenya Inc.

This change would dignify the rider and driver and make them an important and well controlled and drilled part of the economy.

I am sure that the return to the GDP of Kenya would be huge in terms of the lower costs of operations, the reduction in the number of debilitating accidents which also reduce the cost of damage to vehicles.

I could go on and on about this opportunity.

As Kachumbari says, we need a radical change to how we manage the important but as yet to be characterised vocation that is the professional carriage.

 

SEE ALSO:
 

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