4 December 2018

Kenya: Nairobi Commuters Relieved But Rage Persists

Photo: Jeff Angote/Daily Nation
Commuters walk past matatus on the road within the city centre on December 4, 2018.

Nairobi — It is a reprieve for commuters after the ban on matatus accessing Nairobi Central Business District was lifted following chaotic scenes on Monday when thousands of commuters were forced to walk for kilometres amid heavy traffic.

The announcement by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has been welcomed by commuters, who are finally able to be dropped and picked in the CBD.

"I have noted with deep concern the plight of Nairobi residents as a result of the ban, and hereby announce that the full implementation of this directive has been suspended with immediate effect," the governor said.

"This is to facilitate further consultation with all affected parties, in order to find a lasting solution to the problem of vehicular congestion.

"Although the directive is well-intentioned, many innocent commuters, including senior citizens and those with health challenges requiring emergency medical attention, expectant mothers and children traveling with their parents, all suffered untold inconvenience, and this is regrettable."

He added that after the incidents on Monday, "It also became clear that it is necessary to have contingent measures before enforcement of such key decisions."

Commuters who spoke to Capital FM News castigated the county for adopting such a drastic directive, without putting in place alternative transport means for them to access the CBD, particularly those with special needs.

"What were they trying to say to the electorate?" Jasper Murimi, a city resident rhetorically asked. "If you saw how people suffered yesterday, you won't be excited by this. The experience was bad."

Another said the move only gave those driving personal vehicles an upper hand instead of addressing the real issues.

"This was for the economically empowered people," one of the passengers Meshack Mayabi who was boarding a bus at the Kencterminus told Capital FM News.

Juliet Muthoni, 34 weeks pregnant, was not lucky as she had already walked for about two kilometres when the announcement was made.

She, however, said, "it should not be implemented again if there are no alternative means of transport more so for pregnant women and those who are physically disabled."

Monday's decision led to heavy traffic across the city affecting commuters and motorists alike because of the confusion at designated matatu stages outside town, in what greatly hampered business.

Governor Sonko said he has since met PSV operators, "with a view to agreeing on an acceptable solution that has less negative implication on all affected. During the coming days, I will continue to hold discussions with affected parties to find a way forward."

He said though his initial efforts have yielded the unexpected outcome, " I wish to reassure all commuters of the best interests of my County Government to promote the best, most sustainable and most economical means of transport into, and out of Nairobi."

He noted that traffic gridlocks have negatively affected all businesses in the county.

"These gridlocks have the impact of choking our socio-economic growth," he said.

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