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Protesters disrupt transport on Mombasa-Nairobi highway

Thursday September 20 2018

Matatu

Matatu operators from Mikindani, Mombasa, on September 19, 2018 protest over the relocation of a bus stop. The transport sector is run by criminal gangs which extort money from matatu owners and call the shots in nearly every aspect of the business. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SIAGO CECE
By SIAGO CECE
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Transport was on Wednesday paralysed on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway from Mikindani to the Central Business District after more than 300 matatu operators demonstrated over lack of parking space.

Kibarani was virtually impassable as the angry protesters blocked the busy highway.

Recently, some county officials announced plans to relocate Mikindani bus stop in the CBD to a former bus station at Mwembe Tayari.

But both police and county inspectorate officials have been arresting matatu operators whenever they drop or pick up passengers at the new pick up point.

Mikindani residents and matatu operators are against the move, saying the place is unsafe due to criminal gangs that hide in the uncompleted market.

They called for better coordination between the county inspectorate and the police.

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"We are frequently arrested by county officials for picking up passengers at the bus stage which, for long, has been our usual terminus," matatu driver Barrack Owino said during the demonstrations.

HARASSMENT

For long, operators and passengers have used the Ukay stage at Mwembe Tayari. "If the county does not want us here, they should give us an alternative stage,” he said.

He claimed they were unable to operate due to frequent harassment and arrest by traffic police when using the alternative stage offered by county officials.

Matatu Owners Association vice-chairman Ali Bates said their members should be allocated a terminus for picking up and dropping passengers.

Coast regional traffic police commandant Emmanuel Okanda said the new bus stop presented a big challenge because the county inspectorate has by-laws while police officers are guided by the Traffic Act.

“I am aware of the differences between county officials and the traffic police. The police should be included in the law-making process of the county to solve the problem of matatus and confusion," he said.

SOLUTION

Mr Okanda said they would ensure matatu operators and passengers get a stage.

The operators said their business had incurred losses due to lack of a stage.

They urged the authorities to deal with the matter to avoid future demonstrations. However, the county executive in charge of Transport and Infrastructure, Mr Taufiq Balala, said:

“I am not aware of any planned demonstrations or any issue of a stage being moved. We usually have our own stakeholder meetings before anything happens, therefore I cannot make any comment now,” he said.

Many matatus that took part in the demonstrations were later impounded by police, leaving passengers stranded.