9 December 2012

Africa: Thumbs Up Africa Blog 10 - a Kenyan Trucker With Patience

Photo: Elizabeth Mbundu/RNW
Sierd van der Bij, Neda Boin and Christiaan Triebert - Dutch hitchhikers in Africa.

In the truck, I'm sitting next to Berenard Ngurutu. The 26-year-old Kenyan is an intern at a transport company called A.O. Bayusuf and Sons. They transport food relief to refugee camps that hold over 2,000 Somali, South Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees who are still fighting for their freedom.

"If I was a bachelor, I wouldn't do this work. I would stay at home with my mom," Berenard says. "But my wife and two daughters are the reason I stay on the road."

But before he can drive his own truck, Berenard must do a three-year internship alongside an experienced truck driver. Right now he's almost finished, and looking forward to driving his own truck.

"As an intern, I only get 10,000 [Kenyan] shilling [about 90 euros] a month. When I have my own truck that amount will be doubled. It's still not much, but with the money I get from taking passengers with me, I'll manage to support my family," he explains.

Suddenly, I feel a lot better about the fact that this wasn't technically a hitched ride, since we each paid him 350 shilling (about 3 euros) to get from Marsabit to Isiolo.

When I ask Berenard about life on the road, he tells me about something he'll never forget, an accident in 2008.

"I was driving the truck when suddenly another truck wanted to overtake me. He was too slow and hit a car that was in the next lane. The car flipped over three times and I saw how the driver's head got scalped," he recalls. "After that, I knew this was something that could also happen to me. Most accidents here happen because of alcohol and sleepless nights. I never drink and drive. God arranged for me to see this accident so that I learned to always be careful on the roads."

And careful how he was! Because the roads are in a terrible state, we don't drive faster than 20 kilometres an hour. It takes us 15 hours to get to Isiolo, a 223-kilometre-drive away.

Within just ten minutes of driving, we come across three trucks stuck in the mud.

"Kenya is really corrupted," Berenard explains. "Every new government promises to build new roads, but in the end they just stick the money in their own pocket. The president always travels by helicopter, so for him the bad roads are no problem at all."

When I ask the young trucker if he thinks a government will ever fix the roads, he says: "Maybe in the year 2030. I don't have faith in this generation."

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