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VIP security turned bullies and road hogs

Tuesday March 12 2019

Ngong Road

The unidentified men who hit Ms Waithera Gaitho's car on Ngong Road, Nairobi, on March 8, 2019. PHOTO | WAITHERA GAITHO | TWITTER 

JAMES KAHONGEH
By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Waithira Gaitho was driving her daughter to school on Friday morning on Ngong Road in Nairobi when a Toyota Prado registration number KCM 485Y emerged from the opposite direction, driving on the wrong side of the road.

Ms Gaitho tried to swerve to save her life and her child’s. That she did but the Prado rammed into her car, damaging it.

DAMAGE

Two besuited men with an air of self-importance disembarked, inspected the damage on both cars, got back into their car and drove away without a word.

Mother and daughter were left stranded in the middle of the road. Helpless, Ms Gaitho shared her woes on Twitter, asking Kenyans to help her identify the pair.

After images of the Prado circulated online, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions acknowledged that the vehicle belongs to the State agency.

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DPP Noordin Haji instructed the police to take action against the driver involved, and promised to inform Kenyans on the progress of the matter.

The same week on Wednesday, bodyguards attached to Embakasi East MP Babu Owino engaged airport security in an ugly spat when the MP’s vehicle was found parked in an unauthorised section of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The airport guards backed down when the MP, who had gone to show solidarity with striking aviation workers, emerged from the vehicle.

This is an all too familiar occurrence. Cases of accidents where motorists are hit and pedestrians knocked down by VIP convoys are rampant in Kenya. Often, the victims do not get justice due to manipulation of evidence or lack of action against the culprits.

NIGHTMARE

While motorists dread the recklessness displayed by matatu drivers, VIP security personnel are a nightmare.

Arrogant, reckless and self-important, security officers for VIPs harass other motorists by pushing them out of the road to allow their bosses quick passage. They assault other road users, often by brandishing their walkie-talkies.

Even traffic police are helpless against them, and often scamper away for their own safety when these vehicles drive by.

Motorists on Mbagathi Way, Riverside Drive and Ngong, Lang’ata, Limuru and Mombasa roads are the worst affected lot in the city. Some of the VIPs identified for road hogging are governors and their hangers-on.

Foreign diplomats and vehicles with GK registration numbers are notorious, having been captured on camera on multiple occasions breaking traffic rules.

After Ms Gaitho’s incident went viral, motorists took to social media in hordes to narrate their ordeals in the hands of VIP security.

Rashid Jumbe, a Facebook user, said the kind of guns brandished by a certain governor’s security officers compels motorists to give way.

“I was once harassed along Donholm Road. They even pushed me off the road, scratching my car before speeding off,” narrated Michael Jaganyi.

COCKING GUNS

“I tried racing them to demand compensation. One of the vehicles blocked me. The guards came out firing threats. I had to retreat,” he added.

For Willy Okumu, his woes started when he drove too closely to a Prisons Service bus at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital roundabout in Nairobi.

“The wardens came out cocking guns as though I was a criminal,” Mr Okumu said.

Cal Odongo, who has been inconvenienced several times on Limuru Road, lamented that some “senior government officials” are exempted from traffic rules. “It’s the norm if your vehicle bears a flag,” he said.

However, not all motorists are cowed into giving way.

Some like Sharon Karani and Wilson Khimario are not frightened by the VIP security escorts

Khimario said: “I once refused to give way. They came out brandishing their walkie-talkies and even roped in traffic cops. I stood my ground. They had to wait for traffic to clear.”

Ms Karani said she vowed to never give way to VIPs for as long as it’s not an emergency “whether or not they wave the walkie-talkies. They are not in ambulances.”