Not talking about Malaba border or the “panya route” at Budalangi, Ababu Namwamba’s home area, talking about the Busia border. My home.
It’s one of the busiest place in Kenya and unless you have been there, might think that I am lying. Maybe the only other town in Kenya that can rival that is Namanga.
From dawn to dusk the town is buzzing with activities. Long queue of trucks stretching from “No man’s land” all the way to Korinda Prison, where the roads divert, one leading to Mumias past my home sometimes the queue stretches on to Mundika Boys, my former highschool. The trucks ferry different goods to and from Uganda, the land of Museveni a.k.a Sevo. Some are fuel tankers carrying petroleum, diesel and gas while some are just containers with contents we are only left to imagine. Then you have this lorry coming in with matoke and there’s another with this other farm produce from Teso.
Just getting started. I haven’t mentioned to you the many bodaboda riders on both sides of the border and the no nonsense traders shouting their voices hoarse trying to attract customers to their stands. Then there are the matatus with their rude and arrogant dondas who rarely take crap from anyone. Not even from the passenger. And the people. Beautiful people. All the 43 Kenyan tribes in one place plus those from Uganda, the Baganda and other tribes without forgeting the white folks. Imagine all these people at one small town. You will be forgiven for mistaking the town for Pipeline Estate in Nairobi in the evening.
On one side of the street you will see a crowd. Out of curiosity you get closer only to find out it’s a thief being given an easy visa to hell. Or you hear a commotion somewhere else and since you have nothing but time, decide to check it out only to find out it’s nothing pleasant. It’s an accident. This is just a typical day in Busia town. My hometown.
Few metres from the border is the County Referral Hospital, formally Busia District Hospital where I was delivered. So I was told. And during my highschool days whenever I managed to sneak out of school, which I rarely did (for the sake of the family. Just in case they start saying that’s why I never scored that A), would wander into the hospital with no apparent reason. Sit on a bench and start imagining, labda mama yesi yekhala ano (Maybe mother too sat here). Sometimes, especially during half term as we leave for home we would wander into the town and take over the streets.
It was me and my boys all the way up, from Border Palace to Sofia for a nice warm meal and those beautiful Ugandan waiters. We were headed for home so we could afford to be little bit extravagant. Sometimes we could spend even the matatu fare. How we got home, never mind. If I tell you it’s likely you won’t believe me. But for your curiosity’s sake I will tell you. Maybe even some of you are aware of this tactic.
“Holding matatu driver and his konda hostage”. Don’t be scared. No serious stuff like holding dangerous weapon at people or anything of the sort. Basically, we would enter a 14 seater matatu in a group of about 10 and take over. At the time we enter, to the driver, konda and other passengers we are just a bunch of excited school kids, nothing more. The matatu will fill up and leave without any problems until the time they started collected the fare.
Every one they called on to pass over the money will point to one of us who will in turn say money is somewhere in his bag at a place he can’t retrieve at the moment. He will convince the guy to hold on until we alight. Of course the guy will make some noise for a while or at times even ask the driver to pull over the matatu. We either pay or step out. The whole time we will be there comfortably seated, just staring at the man talk his head off. When his threats seem to bear no fruits, or the other customers start complaining, he will give up and we continue with our journey. When we got to our destination, we got out and everyone took off. “Kutoka kijiko”, like this barber guy of mine used to put it. Some drivers were clever. They rarely allowed more than five students to board their matatu.
It was a thrilling experience. The mastermind behind this trick was my late friend and cousin(distant) Godrick. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Another time I will tell you more about how it felt like growing up here.All the adventures, like that day my half brother took dad’s motorbike without permission and took me for a ride to Busia town. Incase I remember I will mention to you mama’s birth place, The West Nile in Uganda. The stories she told me about Lira, Joseph Cony, the rebel leader of LRA(Loads Resistance Army) will certainly interest you.
Bye for now.