31 January 2013

Kenya: Matatu Crews Boycott Work in Gatundu Over Arrests

Transport in Gatundu was yesterday paralysed when Matatu operators protested against "harassment by the police".

The operators lit fires using old car tyres and barricaded the Gatundu-Nairobi road saying some of their colleagues have been arrested for no reason.

They demanded that the five arrested be released before they resume work. The protestors, who included drivers, conductors and touts accused the police of making their work difficult by abirtrarily arresting them.

They said the law enforcers demand bribes ranging from Sh2,000 to Sh5,000 to release the operators they have arrested. However, Gatundu police boss Peter Katam denied the accusations saying those arrested are criminals who masquerade as matatu drivers and conductors.

"It is surprising that some of you who have been extorted by the gangs are now rising against the police who are trying to bring sanity to this industry," he said.

Addressing the operators at the Gatundu matatu terminus, Katam said they will ensure that traffic rules are adhered to by the matatutu operators.

He said matatu crews must wear the prescribed uniforms and badges for them to be easily identified by police officers and passengers. The police boss, who was accompanied by Gatundu CID boss David Karanja and DO Peninah Dzombo, warned the operators against shielding criminals.

He said the five suspects will be taken to court to answer to various charges of traffic offences. Karanja told the operators attempting to prevent the arrest of criminal suspects is a crime.

The operators resumed duty later in the day when they realised that the police would not give in to their demands to release their 'coleagues'.

Officials of the matatu welfare association in Gatundu refused to talk to the press for fear of being targeted by the dreaded gangs. Three matatu operators have been killed in the past by unknown people. The police are yet to solve the murders.

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