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November 13, 2018

How cartels, impunity reign on Nairobi roads

Matatus seen along Tom Mboya Avenue in Nairobi. /Jack Owuor
Matatus seen along Tom Mboya Avenue in Nairobi. /Jack Owuor

For several years now, Kenya’s public service transport sector has been chaotic more often characterized by breach of the highway code, overlapping, obstruction of other road users, double parking, corruption and impunity.

The industry is messy, uncontrolled and is run by cartels whose word is law and order especially in the three cities-Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

The industry has been left to operate under the terms and conditions of the cartels such that even the pleas by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Deputy President that the public service vehicles should reduce fares in tandem with fuel prices, all that seems to have landed on deaf ears.

Motorist hiked fares by almost 20 per cent when the government started implementing 16 per cent tax on fuel products but despite the prices of fuel coming down, motorists have stuck to the increased fares.

However, this could end starting Monday if law enforcers will finally enforce the traffic laws as the stage is set for the much-anticipated crackdown on PSVs that flout traffic rules with impunity that has resulted in deaths and destruction of roads infrastructure.

For instance, a walk along several streets of Nairobi and one would witness a cocktail of impunity and lawlessness committed by law enforcers, motorist and touting boys who control the stages.

Interior Ps Karanja Kibicho said the government is determined to clean the sector once for all adding that gangs, lawlessness will soon be a thing of the past.

Read: CS Matiang’i: This matatu madness must be stopped

Also, put on notice are private vehicles which have entered the Public Service Vehicle business when they are not compliant to the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA).

“Come Monday next week, we will carry out a thorough cleanup of our bus parks and terminus to rid off the premises any individuals or organised groups which keep harassing and terrorising travellers," Kibicho warned.

Karanja said idlers who have infiltrated the Matatu sector are no good and their presence was posing insecurity not only to the transport industry but to the general public.

Speaking to the Media at Wanguru market in Mwea East Sub-County after witnessing the opening of the KCSE examination papers, the tough-talking PS also sounded a similar warning to the members of the outlawed Mungiki sect adherents.

“We have intelligence reports which have confirmed the members of the illegal sect have also made a comeback and have started collecting money from Matatu operators within various routes and terminus but they should also be parking off as their fate is already sealed, ”a tough-talking Karanja said.

He said the public transport sector must reclaim its lost glory which the late Cabinet Minister John Michuki had installed.

Tom Mboya Street which starts right at Fire station stretching all the way to the junction of Haile Selassie Avenue near Easy Coach offices, this street is dotted with several illegal stages which said to be dished out to cartels at City Hall.

It is reported that individuals approach City Hall officials to be allocated a minimum of two picking or loading slots which in turn, they approach matatu saccos who will then be dropping or picking passengers at a fee- between sh 50 and 100.

Likewise to Ronald Ngala Street-though with higher dose impunity is a nightmare for any motorist.

The experience on this street during evening rush hour could qualify for “100 ways to die”, motorist plying mostly Thika Road just pick passengers right in the middle of the road such that there is no movement into and out of town.

One private motorist said she once spent close to one and half hours along the busy road which even despite traffic police officers on site, they seem tired to control traffic.

At this section again, there are “boys” who stand at the junction of Ronald Ngala and Uyoma Lane-right at the sight of one of the government’s CCTV camera- at times they are seen standing with traffic police officers. Here, their work is to “facilitated matatus to offload passengers at the middle of the road or to make wrong turns right to Luthuli Avenue. They removed a barrier that was separating the road. They are paid ten shillings per a vehicle that heeds to their activities.

The same impunity is witnessed along River Site all the way to Karikor market so is Luthuli Avenue and River Road-these are dens of lawlessness and avoid these roads in a rush.

City Hall Inspectorate Department recently successfully flushed out youths that were blocking the road causing jam right outside KTDA Plaza on Moi Avenue but the madness moved to the Railway's roundabout.

At this busy roundabout where Moi Avenue and Haille Salassie meets, matatus plying Rongai route are untouchable, they pick passengers right at the middle of the road. Here too, there are boys who control the activities traffic activities. They also mingle freely with the police.

Then there is the bad habit of jumping lights, not respecting pedestrian crossings and driving on pavements, walkways and wrong lanes which have resulted in the destruction of newly constructed roads infrastructure.

Despite the CCTvs mounted by both the national and Nairobi County governments, it is hard to spot PSVs respecting lights, pedestrian crossings, other motorists and the rush is blamed on the financial targets the drivers are given by the matatu owners.

Newly done pavements along Jogoo Road, the stretch of Kariokor market all the way to “Sun City” and also the stretch between University Way roundabout and Museum Hill near Kenya Broadcasting corporation are in tatters.

Another centre that Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and his Transport counterpart James Macharia should keep on their radar is the Motor Vehicle Inspections unit which is now under National Transport Authority.

It is reported that this has been the centre of corruption where PSVs does not go through the thorough inspections but are cleared at a fee.

Majority of the PSVs that have caused accidents have been found not to have been fitted with speed governors, some are unroadworthy others do not have insurance.

Also read: Nairobians welcome NYS commuter buses, want nationwide rollout

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