THE FESTIVE season has finally come to an end and many are slowly easing into the New Year and back to the work mode. It is that time when you want your friend, who works for a corporate company that has a big budget for publicity, to hand you that 2014 calendar.
The New Year greetings are still in vogue and in Kigali one gets to hear so many Umwaka Mushya messages at every turn.
The festive season often takes a very predictable trend that as one grows the fun slowly turns into a duty. The young ones enjoy it so much while for the old it is more of partaking in an old tradition. If you asked a friend why they did what they did during the Christmas season the most common answer you are likely to get is that it was well… Christmas!
Once workers have earned their annual leave or a few days break from work, the main agenda is often that of travelling back home. That can mean returning to their home countries in case they work outside their country or leaving the city to go and enjoy life in the countryside.
Those living and working in North America and Europe are known to make such a scene that names have been coined to refer to them. They are easy to tell apart with their outstanding dress styles and the usual ‘the weather here is great’ kind of talk.
I will however wish to talk more about the habit of city dwellers packing some bags and heading to the countryside. The increased traffic on the highways obviously results in more deaths on our roads. In Kenya, road rage has become so common place that one TV station even started a segment where they out those who break traffic rules in the city.
What really caught my eye though is the decision by Kenya’s Transport Cabinet Secretary to ban all night travel in response to a fatal accident that involved a passenger bus. It is such knee-jerk reactions that expose our weaknesses when it comes to policy design and enactment.
It also reminds me of the time when a bus was attacked by robbers in western Uganda and the response from the police chief was to order that each bus heading upcountry carries an armed police officer. The move did not last long enough before everything returned to normal.
In Kenya the ban on night travel only resulted in a surge in passenger numbers now that the buses were doing half of their scheduled rounds. Journeys that had been shortened because of the night travel became much longer and the fares doubled in a very short time.
By the time the festive season was over, several passengers were stuck up country as they had to wait for the same buses that spent the night parked and waiting for day break. In Mombasa, so many were trapped that the train service became a major alternative although also with hiked fares.
Driving at night should never be used as an excuse for accidents. Have we even stopped to ask ourselves why cars are made with headlights? Are there no accidents that happen during the day? Eng. Kamau not only showed incompetence but also elitism when he came up with this night travel ban.
You see the rich also love to travel to the countryside for the Christmas break. The difference is that they either fly there or simply fill up the tanks of their SUVs and speed away. You are not going to find them lining up for bus tickets at the booking office.
They likes of Kamau do not want to admit that massive corruption in the police force, especially the traffic department, is what allows buses in poor mechanical condition to ply our roads, to over load and over speed something that literally makes most of them mere flying coffins on our roads.
Banning night travel is not a solution at all. It is actually ironical that Kenya can be dreaming of 24 hour economy that does not include travelling at night. Even the Kenyan border posts that are open 24 hours must be bored when it is night time.
We can make our roads safer by sticking to the basic rules. A look at the famous ‘Michuki rules’ could be a good start. In 2014 we need better policy implementations not knee-jerk solutions that give us false hopes.