How peculiar habits, narrow road combine to kill Christmas joy

Hundreds of Kenyans at the Pirates Public Beach in Mombasa County during the 2022 Christmas day. [Maarufu Mohamed,Standard]

The Nairobi-Uganda Road, also known as A104, is easily becoming the Kenyan version of the highway to hell. On the best of days, it is a super-busy highway with tens of thousands of vehicles moving passengers goods back and forth. At the worst of times, it is a veritable parking lot with personal and commercial vehicles in situ.

Christmas time the season of goodwill and cheer is anything but that on the highway. It brings out the worst in motorists. It seems Kenyans succumb to what has been described as their peculiar habits. They head out of the city in droves as though in the Biblical exodus. Tales from motorists who endured harrowing experiences this Christmas eve provide perfect examples.

A motorist on her way to Western Kenya spent 24 hours on the road because of traffic jams from Limuru all the way to Nakuru. Another told of having left Nairobi pretty early in the morning only to be stuck at the Ahero interchange for hours on end. This was after veering off the A104 at the Total interchange.

It is said that the most dangerous nut in a car is the one behind the wheel. And the behaviour of the quintessential Kenyan driver confirms as much. While many will drive with textbook decorum, a group of entitled nuts will speed above the limit overtaking dangerously while cutting in and out of lanes with inches to spare.

Oftentimes, these are the ones who overlap as others wait patiently in queue, causing the infernal gridlocks that have come to characterise any travel on the A104.

But is it not enough to apportion wholesale blame to motorists. Their peccadillos on the road are informed by frustrations that arise from feelings of being trapped on road infrastructure from the last century. From the 70s, the Nairobi-Uganda highway has remained pretty much the same with only marginal improvements in sections of it.

Yet traffic over the years has increased exponentially to the extent that journeys that would have taken no more than four hours are now typically a whole day's affair.

Kenyans are aware that a tender to expand the A104 has been awarded. This is from Rironi in Limuru to Mau Summit in Nakuru County. The project will involve expansion of 187km of the road into a four-lane dual carriageway to alleviate interminable traffic jams on this section.

However, there are sticky points in the contract that are yet to be resolved. This column urges the new pointy heads at the Ministry of Transport to expedite the resolution of these challenges lest this important trunk road bring the entire country to a standstill.

On a related Christmas note, some wiseacres have been waxing knowledgeable about the origins of Christmas day celebrations. They attribute them as having origins in pagan worship. That Jesus Christ may not have been born on the December 25 is not an eternal verity. What is patently clear to the Christian worshipper is that the etymology of the word Christmas stems from two root words; Christ and mass.

Christmas is therefore a celebration of the deity of Jesus Christ. It is about Him glorified, his date of birth notwithstanding. This is in the same way that Christians on Sunday do not direct their worship to the Sun god. Nor do exemplars of the faith succumb to the popular habit of redacting Christ to an unknown quantity x as in x-mas.

Still on Christmas, many would do well to reflect on the following: It is not a licence for dissipated living. Nor is it a season of conduct unbecoming. Sherehe, which is a euphemism for debauchery, does not capture the essence of Christmas.

If anything, this is a season of introspection; of imitating Jesus Christ through self-sacrifice to better the lives of others. 1 John 4:17 puts it succinctly, "as He is, so are we in this world." Merry Christmas and best wishes for a prosperous 2023!

Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst