Matatu screening: The forgotten practice of passenger safety
At exactly 8am on Thursday morning, a Nairobi-bound bus stops to pick passengers at Homeland Inn along the Thika Super Highway.
Several passengers fight their way into the bus and take the available seats as others opt to stand along the aisle. No screening at the door, just as case of the strongest having their way first.
Ten minutes earlier, the bus had picked other passengers in a similar manner at Roysambu area.
Four years ago, it was unheard of for passengers boarding matatus and buses within Nairobi not to be subjected to a mandatory screening by the operators.
Some passengers would even take it upon themselves to enforce this unwritten law of passenger safety in Public Service Vehicles (PSVs), especially at the Homeland and Roysambu bus stops.
This is after two people were killed and over 50 others injured after bus explosions occurred simultaneously at the two termini. Police said that improvised explosive devices were used in both attacks.
And that is how screening of passenger boarding the buses was enforced by the operators to forestall a recurrence of similar incident.
But that turned out to be just a temporary measure. Screening has not only long been forgotten, but it is the least of most passengers’ worries.
Despite the rising cases of carjackings of Public Service Vehicles (PSVs), in nearly all termini within the city center, the practice of screening passengers is hardly observed.
On the Githurai bus terminus and the Mwiki bus terminus as long as you can pay for your fare you will walk in and out of any matatu that you fancy.
At the Mwiki bus stop, touts appear keen to load heavy luggage on top of the buses without caring what might be inside the bags.
However, most passengers appear to favour the practice of screening for boarding of PSVs.
“That will really help address issues of passenger safety and also it is a way of saving lives,” Mr Alex Otieno told Nairobi News.
His views are shared by Mr Justus Nyabuto a resident of Githurai.
“Screening is important as a way of keeping criminals away from well meaning passengers,” he said.
Mr Kelvin Kiambi, a tout in a matatu that plies the Eastleigh-town route, however blames the passengers for their failure not to screen boarding passengers.
“If it were not for the passengers we could have never gotten tired of screening them. They should blame themselves for the changes,” he said.
However, James Makori also a tout thinks otherwise.
He also says the rush hours work against the screening.
“During rush hour when we pick passengers there is no time to screen the passengers at each and every bus stop,” he said.