Crisis as Kenyan matatu owners go on strike

Nyeri residents walk to work after public service vehicles kept off the roads to avoid the police, who are enforcing road safety rules. NMG

 

IN SUMMARY
Many Kenyans across the country woke up on Monday to a transport crisis as many public service vehicle owners made good on their threat to keep off the roads to protest the government’s enforcement of the ‘Michuki rules.’

The decision to withdraw the vehicles from roads was reached last evening following deliberations by representatives of Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators.

The move came after the government announced that the crackdown on vehicles without seat belts, speed governors or a bold yellow line will begin Monday.

Many Kenyans across the country woke up on Monday to a transport crisis as many public service vehicle owners made good on their threat to keep off the roads to protest the government’s enforcement of the ‘Michuki rules.’

The decision to withdraw the vehicles from roads was reached last evening following deliberations by representatives of Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators.

The move came after the government announced that the crackdown on vehicles without seat belts, speed governors or a bold yellow line will begin Monday.

Starting Monday morning, such vehicles would not be permitted on the road as the government enforces rules gazetted 15 years ago by the then Transport Minister John Michuki in an effort to tame the rogue matatu industry.

However, on Sunday, the PSV operators held a meeting and resolved to remove their vehicles from the road until they get clarity on a number of contentious issues.

By 4.30am on Monday, the few vehicles available on Nairobi routes had doubled fares as hundreds of commuters chose to walk to their destinations amid the matatu shortage.

A Nation spot check on Jogoo-Outer Ring Road revealed that fares had shot up to Ksh200 from Pipeline to the Central Business District (CBD) as commuters in Donholm parted with Ksh100 more than the usual Ksh30-Ksh50 fares.

There are fears the fares could go higher with time.

“I’ve walked from Embakasi where the fare was Ksh200. I’ve found that it’s Ksh100 at Donholm and I’ll continue to walk until I get a place where they will charge at least Ksh80 to town,” Ms Josephine Mueni said.

Other Kenyans took their complaints to Twitter, where it emerged that fares from Pangani to town, a distance of about five kilometres, had shot up from Ksh20 to Ksh80.

A similar situation was evident in Githurai 45, where commuters were charged Ksh250 to the CBD and Ksh200 from Roysambu. It was the same situation on Ngong Road, Rongai and Uthiru.

In Buru Buru, there were hardly any matatus and commuters were scrambling to get in the one that was at the stage at 5:45am.

At the popular Kencom and nearby stage at Ambassadeur Hotel there were no buses. Two buses dropped people off at Kencom but didn’t carry any passengers.

The transport crisis is bound to have a ripple effect on other key economic activities.

Green grocers within the estates, commonly referred to ‘mama mboga’, who are among the early risers in Kenyan towns, were also affected because a majority of them rely on public transport to move their goods from the market.

In Kisii County, matatus opted out of the roads as operators dug in for a strike.

The few matatus at the Kisii bus park were largely those heading to Kisumu and Eldoret.

There were no vehicles plying the Kisii-Keroka and Kisii-Ogembo routes as police cracked down on those that have not complied with the Michuki rules.

In Marani, a driver said traffic officers followed him deep into the villages but they gave up the chase.
The driver said he will keep off the road until the owner complies with the road safety rules.

“I don’t want to fight with the government, let the owner make the necessary adjustments,” he said.

MT KENYA REGION

In Meru County, the hundreds of private vehicles – mainly Toyota Proboxes – that illegally operate as PSVs have kept off the roads.

“As Probox owners, we have not met the requirements because the time given was too short. We want to see how things turn out…we will have to keep off the business,” said Mr Morris Gitonga, the chairman of Maua Town Probox Operators.

Mr Gitonga said there are more than 500 non-public service vehicles operating from Meru plying to Githongo, Kithaku, Mikinduri and Gatimbi trading centres.

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