30 November 2012

Kenya: PSV Operators Call Off Crippling Strike

Nairobi — The Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) has asked striking Public Service Vehicle operators to resume work after a meeting with Transport PS Cyrus Njiru discussed the possibility of reviewing and amending the new stringent traffic rules set to take effect on Saturday.

The Secretary General of MWA Sammy Gitau said that the amendments in the Traffic Amendment Act 2012 should have been discussed widely with stakeholders to sensitise them to the new laws.

"We now call upon the Minister of Transport to temporarily suspend these new laws until the clauses in dispute are discussed and moderated by all the stakeholders," he said.

"The Bill of Rights in our Constitution is very clear in stating that matters affecting the society should be given wide consultations so as to allow understanding and ownership by the stakeholders," he explained.

MWA Chairman Dickson Mbugua said that while they advocate for road safety rules and regulations to be followed by all Kenyans, they believe the punishment for the traffic infractions are too severe and will cause massive financial losses to the public transport sector.

"For now we need to appeal to the PSV operators to go back to work so they can give us some time to allow for the resolution of our issues," he emphasised.

"The other option is of course going to the constitutional court but let us try the softer options. In other words, although we are not the convenors of the strike, we want to call it off," he added.

Mbugua explained that the new Traffic Amendment Act 2012 which is set to take effect on Saturday contains some clauses that are extremely punitive and should be amended.

He said that the contentious clauses in the Act that the MWA feel need to be amended include: drink-driving attracting 10 years in jail or a fine of Sh500,000 or both; motorists who drive on pavements or pedestrian walkways will be jailed for three months or a fine of Sh30,000 or both and reckless driving will attract a Sh100,000 fine or two years in jail for a first offender.

"The new laws also stipulate that all drivers of public service vehicles and commercial vehicles will be required to undergo physical fitness, eye and hearing testing after every three years to qualify for a renewal of their driving licenses," he added.

"The police reforms should be completed and implemented before the Act is implemented. The International Driving School (Standards) curriculum also needs to be developed and applied to all the driving schools in Kenya in order to roll out competent drivers," he said.

He added that the government should clearly spell out the PSV routes across the main urban centre and construct the designated bus stops.

"We also think that only trained traffic officers should be deployed to audit road safety compliance by all road users," he said.

On Thursday, Nairobi was turned into a 'walking' city as matatu crews went on strike and blocked city streets and highways to protest against the new rules.

Chaos was reported in sections of the city such as Kangemi where matatu crews blocked the Nairobi-Nakuru highway and stoned motorists who tried to make their way through.

In the city centre, PSVs were parked in the middle of the road making parts of Moi Avenue, City Hall Way and Tom Mboya Street inaccessible to other users.

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