30 November 2012

Kenya: Showdown Looms Over New Traffic Laws

Nairobi — A showdown is looming in the public transport sector after the government on Friday evening indicated that it will not amend the strict traffic rules that take effect on Saturday.

The Transport Ministry announced that the rules stand as gazetted in efforts to restore sanity on Kenyan roads, despite a crippling strike by PSV operators and will not be amended.

"The ministry is not at war with any road user and certainly not with the Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators. The intention has been to facilitate the operators to conduct profitable business. The laws apply to all categories of motorised transport including, personal vehicles," the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Cyrus Njiru said.

He urged the PSV operators to realise the importance of the traffic laws for road users to cut down the number of accidents and also to ensure reliable, organised transport in the country.

Njiru said a lot of work had been put in the laws and it will be a total loss if the government relaxes the important framework that will curb down accidents which have been on an upward trend.

He urged Kenyans in general to support the traffic laws saying they are not unique but are observed by other countries.

"It is instructive to note that in all countries that have achieved development, there is a marked existence of law and order on the roads. There are also heavy penalties for road traffic offences in such countries," he asserted.

Njiru also expressed concerns over interruptions and criminal activities after matatu operators went on strike on Thursday.

He said it was unacceptable that people engaged in unlawful activities because of failing to adhere to positive laws, "the criminal acts committed include obstruction on public roads and highways, public nuisance, offences against the persona and breach of peace."

Operators earlier defied calls by the Matatu Welfare Association to call off the strike that entered its second day on Friday over the new tough penalties under the Traffic Act.

Matatu Welfare Association Chairman Dickson Mbugua had said they held a meeting with Njiru and agreed to dialogue with a view to reviewing some of the stringent rules but the government later said there was no backing down and demanded action against defiant operators.

Mbugua maintained that the new punishment for the traffic infractions was too severe and would cause massive financial losses to the public transport sector.

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