Nakuru streets, once described as the cleanest in East Africa, may have worn the unenviable “clogged streets” tag following an invasion by matatus in the town centre.
That comes as the government said it had earmarked the town for upgrading to city status.
Of late, nearly every space in the hitherto orderly central business district has been turned into a terminus, making the town noisy as touts shout at the top of their voices in their scramble for passengers.
Traders in the CBD blame the county government for authorising the terminuses.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, however, blames cartels collaborating with corrupt county officers in the past regime to issue illegal licences to transporters.
“The licences of these illegal terminuses will be cancelled and we will evict all of them from the CBD as we cannot waste any more time on this issue,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
The governor is, however, likely to encounter resistance.
While in normal circumstances allocation of terminuses is done by the Department of Infrastructure, due to corruption, that role has been taken over by sub-county bosses and junior enforcement officers.
“Junior officers collude with cartels to allocate terminuses to matatu operators,” said a senior officer at the Department of Trade who requested anonymity.
The runaway invasion is causing unnecessary gridlocks.
The hardest-hit streets include Pandit Nehru Road, which has such a terminus opposite the Nation Media Group’s regional bureau offices. Matatus have blocked the road at Eros Cinema and at the junction of Geoffrey Kamau Avenue junction, endangering motorists on the busy highway.
Entrances to shops and stalls at Uchumi Business Centre are blocked and driving around the area is a nightmare.
Motorists incur extra costs as they are forced to park vehicles in private bays.
The busy Mburu Gichua Road now always has a long matatu queue while Maralal and East roads have become a permanent terminus for matatus plying the Langalanga route.
The Oginga Odinga roundabout, opposite Naivas Downtown branch, is also used by Langalanga matatus.
Areas reserved for utility services and emergency exit routes have also been taken up.
Some of the terminuses are directly opposite supermarkets, blocking entrances. But the worst of all is Kenyatta Lane, where several prominent businesses and banks such as Equity have suffered huge losses as clients go away for lack of parking space.
Filthy and noisy boda bodas have taken up the remaining space, making the CBD resemble a massive Jua Kali garage.
Annoyingly, the increasing army of riders speed on the wrong side and cut in as they zigzag along congested streets, posing a danger to motorists, pedestrians and other road users.
They never stop at zebra crossings, forcing pedestrians to scamper for safety.
Smoking tuk-tuks are another menace, spewing clouds of exhaust smoke as they turn the remaining space into permanent pick-up and drop-off points.
They are ever stationed opposite Java House on Kenyatta Avenue.
Nairobi-Nyanza/Western buses no longer stop over in Nakuru as the current terminus teems with hawkers and matatus.
Traders said the invasion began with impunity during Governor Kinuthia Mbugua’s reign.
Because the main matatu terminus is filled up, they have asked Mr Kinyanjui to ask Kenya Railways to donate space for more terminuses.