Zusha for your own safety


Zusha [Swahili word for protest, Speak up!] campaign
makes a clarion call on Kenyans to: Speak up.
Tis´ an effort in the right direction–
Urges passengers to speak against reckless
driving on location.
3 in 10 matatu deaths could be avoided by
speaking up!

It targets effecting behaviour change;
making safety a personal responsibility.
But then are they, not the same Kenyans who in some
parts of this country rebuke others who dare speak;
look you curiously for fidgeting for the safety belt?
Or ‘carefully observe’ that the complaining passenger
-must be a new one to the route.

The average Kenyan passenger is a double standard -It depends person.
In some trips, he is heard to say–once the matatu
(a taxi van) is full (and by this, he means–one passenger per seat),
‘let’s go!’
In other circumstances, he is a passive one that will
ease up that same space so that many more can come in;
including helping create an illegal makeshift link
‘sambaza-seats’ in all available aisle and leg spaces.

As together with his caged devotees,
the driver slows to a mean walk,
a traffic checkpoint, a tipping distance away.
To make an instalment, everyone smiles with that knowing look.
We are all Kenyans, all the time.
After all; We are in this together.
Time is of essence. So;
Toe-speed spurred was our chopper,
I clicked, someone did.

One day a desperate sojourner burst out reminding
fellow passengers; even as they overload, there
would be no gauze bandages or gloves in the hospital–
Should there be any injuries.
God forbid if;
The nurses might have made good their notice
and there would be no one to receive us,
lest one becomes like John Doe, the Unknown African Male adult.
He who could not pay an arm and a leg; for care in the private hospital.

From the confines, another passenger pronounced;
in no uncertain terms that–everyone involved would not be–
Be what!?
Be eligible to any insurance compensation should they get involved
in an accident.

They glared at the 12×3 inches Zusha stickers,
a few shook their heads. Someone muttered, ‘sasa hii ni nini?’
Swahili for what’s this now?). They seem everywhere.
How do they tolerate the stickers; these matatu people?
A sicker sticker portrayed a dead body on a stretcher;
another sticky one seemingly had resisted attempts to scrape it,
showed an incongruous mangled wreck
of a look-alike matatu. Same Sacco–
How comes?

No one could dare ‘Speak up! To a lip-biting pilot.
The blast-No not the blast, the bang: whichever!
The stereo woofer snapped.
The silence that followed was deafening.

Zusha–doing nothing is not an option;
‘Speak up, Silence is killing us!
Do not let a reckless driver make you end up like this!’
‘Prevent an accident now. Speak up against reckless matatu driving.’
‘If only passengers spoke up… speak up now while you still can!’

‘Don’t end up a victim of dangerous driving,’
‘You have the power to slow down a reckless driver.
‘Me I’ll Zusha,
Be the passenger in the driver’s seat,
even if it’s not nobler
Haply Be safe.


[Between 3000 and 13,000 Kenyans lose their lives in traffic-related collisions every year. Kenya’s 14 seat passenger vehicles are known as matatus and the drivers are notorious for speeding and reckless driving.

This piece by Simon Kamau A.K.A Compleat Nurse is a reflection on the Zusha Road Safety Campaign in Kenya. First published in The Human Touch, Journal of Poetry, Prose & Visual Art. University of Colorado, Denver, Vol. 9 pg82 ]. See another poem plus other great nurse poets here.

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