Protest in Narok leaves Mara tourists stranded for hours - Daily Nation

Protest in Narok leaves Mara tourists stranded for hours

Saturday July 2 2016

Tour operators and guides barricaded the Narok-Bomet highway at the Enkare-Narok river bridge, protesting the state of the 85 kilometre Narok-Sikinani road that leads to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve on July 1, 2016. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Tour operators and guides barricaded the Narok-Bomet highway at the Enkare-Narok river bridge, protesting the state of the 85 kilometre Narok-Sikinani road that leads to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve on July 1, 2016. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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Hundreds of tourists visiting the Maasai Mara Game Reserve were stranded for hours Friday morning after tour drivers and guides barricaded the road leading to the park protesting its poor condition.

The protestors used their vehicles to block the Narok-Bomet highway at the Enkare-Narok river bridge, protesting the state of the 85 kilometre Narok-Sikinani road.

The demonstration was staged by the Kenya Tour Drivers Association.

Tourists to and from the game reserve were stranded for over three hours in the morning incident.

The demonstration also caused a heavy traffic snarl up from both directions, seriously affecting business in Narok town.

Police who arrived at the scene attempted to clear the traffic, managing to tow away ten vehicles.

Most of the 85-kilometre road has been in a poor state for the last 16 years and complaints from visitors and tour operators have not yielded fruit.

Friday, however, Transport and Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary James Macharia promised that construction works on the road would commence in three weeks’ time.

The CS, in a statement following the protest, said some Sh2 billion has been allocated for the road’s reconstruction.

The contract for the project was awarded by the Transport ministry through the Kenya Highways Authority.

According to the CS, the Ministry has immediately deployed a contractor to carry out emergency works which include grading and spot gravelling to ensure smooth riding for visitors before the contractor

commences work.

“We do realize that the road is a vital link to the world famous Maasai Mara National Park,” the CS said.

There is concern that thousands of visitors will soon start flocking the park to watch one of the wonders of the world, the wildebeest migration, yet the road is still in a poor state.

Among those who were held up in Friday’s traffic jam were eight tourists from Spain who were en route to Julian Camp in the Mara.

They said their schedule had been delayed and would affect their two day stay at the Mara.

“We paid for two days in the camp, it seems part of our money is being wasted since we will not reach there as scheduled due to the demonstration. The government of Kenya should intervene and address the concerns of the drivers,” said Ms Rinion.

Chepalungu MP Mr Paul Bii was also among travellers who were caught up in the road traffic.

He called on protestors to seek alternative ways of addressing their grievances instead of subjecting other travellers to unnecessary delays.

“They should have sought the county government’s audience and solved the issue with the concerned authorities, why close a major road like this one,” said Mr Bii. 

The Kenya Tour Drivers Association had earlier issued a 21-day notice to the government to start repairs on the road which they said, was disregarded, prompting Friday’s action.

“Drivers on the Narok-Sekenani road are demanding that it must be fixed urgently. Using is a nightmare to our tourists and the wear and tear of our vehicles is too high,” said James Gichina, one of the officials.

He said tour operators end up subjecting visitors to delays, discomfort and clouds of dust as they drive them all the way into and out of the Maasai Mara.

However, Narok North sub-County commissioner Mr Ronald Miwari who led a team of security officers to disperse the demonstrators said they did not follow the law.

Police consequently arrested two of the protestors and seized several vehicles.

“Those we arrested will be a lesson to others who are planning such unlawful acts,” said Mr Miwari.

He called on drivers to use alternative means to channel their grievances.

(Editing by Joel Muinde)