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Kenya: Nairobi commuters trek to work as matatu ban takes effect

Do you work in Nairobi’s Central Business District and use public transport to reach your work station?

And does your commute involve taking a connecting matatu from the city centre?

If your answer to either of the questions is in the affirmative, Governor Mike Sonko has bad news for you: You will either have to trek or take a taxi to reach your place of work.

These transport woes and heavy price of commute have been occasioned by City Hall ban on matatus from picking up and dropping off passengers in the CBD.

The ban took effect as early as 4.50am, with police and county traffic marshals blocking matatus from entering the city centre.

The armed security officers, some in full combat gear, were deployed to designated termini (outside CBD) that the Sonko administration directed matatus to operate from starting today.

The traffic marshals with clubs and police with guns and batons have mounted roadblocks at the termini, including Muthurwa, Muranga Road Fig Tree A, Desai Road, Ngara Road, Hakati, Railways and Central Bus Station.

Their orders to matatu operators are swift and firm: Stop! Do not drive beyond this point.

The officers are stopping and directing matatus seeking to enter the city centre to either make U turns or take the possible route back.

At the City Stadium roundabout, police parked their Toyota Land cruisers to block a section of the CBD-bound traffic and all PSVs plying Jogoo Road had to drop off passengers at the Muthurwa terminus.

The situation was similar along Thika and Limuru roads, where majority of passengers disembarked at the Fig Tree Terminus A in Ngara as matatus.

In the city centre, most matatu termini, which are usually busy during the morning hours, were deserted.

There were no matatus and virtually no activity at Koja, Odeon, Kencom, GPO, OTC, Commercial, Ronald Ngala Street, Ambassadeur, Murang’a Road and other bus stops along River Road.

Hawk-eyed security officers patrolled the town centre, possibly to arrest any operators who might have sneaked into town.

Sources told the Nation that police had been briefed on Sunday concerning implementation of the ban, which has proved futile for several years.

The biggest losers in the new directive are matatu operators, who will lose business; commuters, who will have to trek on unpaved roads and in bad weather’ and traders, who rely on matatus to ferry their merchandise to and from the CBD.

PSVs in the capital had vowed to defy the order issued last Thursday, raising fears of a possible clash with authorities.

Matatu owners had argued that Mr Sonko was rushing to implement an order without building capacity, and putting in place security, logistics and other amenities in the termini outside CBD.

CONCERNS

Of major concern was the capacity of the new termini outside CBD to handle the over 20,000 matatus that operate in the capital.

“My members are not ready to move out until the county government meets their standards,” Association of Matatu Workers (AMW) chairman Clement Njuguna said on Saturday.

“The termini are too small to fit our vehicles and they have not reached our standards.”

However, Nairobi Transport executive Mohamed Dagane defended the decision, saying the termini will only act as pick-up and dropping-off points for passengers and not holding grounds for the matatus.

Every matatu, he said, will have between 10 and 40 minutes to drop off and pick up passengers.

Attempts to implement matatu ban in Nairobi CBD failed terribly in the past years and had to be suspended following negotiations between major stakeholders.

Will Mr Sonko succeed where others failed?

He is off to a good start but time will tell.

By Daily Nation

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