Thursday, November 29, 2012

Matatus strike to fight new laws

Matatu men line up to reject new traffic laws
A group of matatu touts protest on Nairobi’s Lang’ata Road in November 29, 2012. Photo/EMMA NZIOKA
A group of matatu touts protest on Nairobi’s Lang’ata Road in November 29, 2012. Photo/EMMA NZIOKA
By NATION TEAM [email protected]

Thousands of commuters were forced to walk to work on Thursday after matatu operators boycotted work to protest stringent traffic rules, which take effect on Saturday.

The operators claimed that the new stringent measures would give the police a leeway to extort money from them and run them out of business.

They vowed to force a review of the laws by collecting more than a million signatures. (Kiambu matatu strike; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0g7LMST1KI)

The tough new regulations prescribe hefty fines and jail terms for traffic offenders.

In Eldoret, touts plying the Langas route clashed with bus operators who were ferrying commuters to town to compel them to join in the strike. Fares had also been raised to Sh100, up from the usual Sh20.

“We want the bus operators to also ground their vehicles and join our strike since the traffic guidelines will affect all of us,” a tout said.

Police were forced to intervene and restore calm after the touts barricaded sections of the road and forced passengers out of the few matatus that were in operation.  

But boda-boda operators took advantage of the strike to cash in on the suffering of commuters, charging high fares and precariously carrying up to three passengers.

“Although the rules are set to bring sanity and reduce road carnage, we feel that the police will use them to extort money from us. Some unruly police officers have even started harassing motorists even before the laws take effect,” a driver plying the route, Mr Maina Mwangi, said.

The matatu strike was also replicated in other routes, including Kahoya, Kipkaren and Maili Tisa. 

In Nakuru, matatu operators flocked the bus terminus to append their signatures to a document that seeks to force a review of the new laws.

In a statement, they lamented that the traffic amendments were punitive and aimed at pushing them out of business.

Reiterating that the industry was committed to the rule of law, the matatu operators said that corruption was the main cause of road carnage in the country.

In Ongata Rongai, the operators demonstrated their grievances by blocking a section of Magadi road, burning tyres and ordering all matatus from the road.

Hundreds of commuters were left stranded at matatu termini with a few private vehicles and boda-boda operators taking advantage of the situation to demand as high as Sh1,000 for fare to Nairobi.

Matatu operators said the strike would not end unless the rules are amended.

Reported by Samuel Koech, Eddy Ngeta and Ponciano Odongo

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