Music, graffiti symbolise ills in matatu industry

Man creating street art drawing on the wall. [iStockphoto]

The story of Kenya cannot be told without a chapter on matatu. Without matatu movement would be impossible as they are the most widely used means of transport.

But despite their significance, the dark side of matatu is hard to ignore. Indiscipline in this industry sticks out like a sore thumb. From careless drivers who bully other motorists on the road to foul-mouthed conductors, some who have even pushed their passengers out of moving vehicles to death, Kenyans have seen it all.

Loud, ear-splitting music blares out many a matatu, making them sound and seem like mobile disco halls- complete with disco lights. In addition, many of the vehicles are emblazoned with graffiti, some of it unsightly.

We would be lying to say that some people don't like the loud music and the graffiti. In the same vein, however, there many people who detest them.

It is baffling that Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja sees nothing wrong. He argues that the graffiti and the music are part of the culture that he grew up in and tells commuters to choose the vehicles that suit them.

In most cases, the vehicles that play loud music and videos are the ones emblazoned with graffiti, some of them distasteful. Some of them play explicit music and videos, including pornographic ones. Unfortunately, the county government and other government agencies have done little to rein them in.

Such matatu are usually popular with youths, and adults who stray into such vehicles are confronted with sounds they would never want to hear and images they would never want to see. Heaping praises on bad-mannered matatu crews, will only make life more nightmarish for commuters.

There should be no different matatu for young people and for the elderly. No one should feel uncomfortable using any matatu. No one should ask whether this or that matatu is fit adults or for teenagers. Our transport system should cater for all. That's what happens in civilised societies. Mr Sakaja should take us in that direction by rooting out vile behaviour in the matatu industry.