Thika becomes 'ghost town' as town empties for Christmas.

Snapshots of empty Kenyatta Highway, Uhuru Street and Kwame Nkrumah Road on Christmas day.
To the average Kenyan who lives and works in an urban area, the festive season brings a sigh of relief for all manner of odd reasons and residents can’t wait for December to break free and visit their rural homes (or the coast for some).

This year has not been different.

25th December 2017, the streets of Thika have been left virtually deserted as the town undergoes its annual Christmas exodus - leaving the CBD like a ‘ghost town’. The ever busy streets like Kenyatta Highway, Uhuru Street and Kwame Nkrumah Street had no people except families walking helter-skelter with travelling bags heading to the main bus station and bus termini destined for upcountry.

Travelling upcountry for Christmas came with a steep cost on Sunday and Monday after matatu operators increased fares. Operators cashed in on passengers heading to Murang’a, Embu, Meru, Nyeri and Nakuru counties.

Even after the fares were raised, most of these passengers remained stranded due to the scarcity of passenger vehicles.

However, Nairobi bound matatus had very little business as few people were heading in that direction.

Thika superhighway bore the blunt of this exodus as motorists and commuters especially those who were heading to the Murang'a direction had to bear with a 30km long traffic jam from Juja to Kabati in Murang’a County.

The situation on Thika Superhighway and Thika main bus station on Christmas Day.
Business within the CBD was very minimal save for a few shops and supermarkets that remained open. Areas near these outlets were abuzz with activity as residents made last minute rush in securing foodstuffs and other items for the Christmas celebrations.

Shop attendants in a number of supermarkets we visited said the number of shoppers and the magnitude of shopping had increased significantly compared to previous years. Every supermarket we visited was packed to the brim with long queues witnessed at the cashiers’ desks.

Hawkers too had a booming business as they cashed in on customers.

Those remaining behind breathed a sigh of relief as they enjoyed the relative calm on roads free from 
the usual thronging crowds of people.

Majority thronged entertainment joints and churches with family for merry-making and worship while some decided to enjoy some good time at home with family and friends.

Nonetheless, some residents had no luxury of celebrating Christmas with the rest. Bodaboda riders, hawkers and attendants of entertainment joints and supermarkets were still working during the festive period.

Majority of those who were self-employed said they could not afford to miss the opportunity to make a quick buck as they expected increased business as residents stock up on food and buy clothes to celebrate with their families.

PSV operators said that they were better off on the road instead of spending Christmas with his family.

(Related story: HUNDREDS OF COMMUTERS STRANDED, FARES HIKED THREEFOLD.)

“We are busy ferrying people going to have fun or going upcountry. The biggest issue is that celebrations require money and to get money you need to work. But I will be off tomorrow so I will see how to compensate,” said one matatu driver.

It was the same story with John Njung’e, a bodaboda operator who said he was eager to cash in on the holidays.

However, for Jane Mweni, a shop attendant within the CBD, she had to attend duty as she had no choice.

“We were warned not to miss work today (Christmas) otherwise we will lose our jobs. I really wish I could spend time with my family but you see I have no money and have to wait for my salary,” said Mweni.


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