Kenya: How Coronavirus Has Changed Nakuru Town

Despite disrupting many aspects of life in Nakuru Town, the coronavirus pandemic may be a blessing in disguise as the town gears towards attaining a city status. The virus is certainly a game changer and many of the 600,000 Nakuru Town residents now feel things may never be the same again.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Governor Lee Kinyanjui has announced several measures to curb the spread of the virus, among them the relocation of public amenities from the town to enforce social distancing.

The main Wakulima Market has been relocated to Afraha Stadium Annex while the main matatu terminus has been moved to former Kenya Railways staff quarters near Bondeni Estate.

The once vibrant Nakuru main Bus Park was invaded by second hand clothes traders, leaving little space for buses. This forced up country bus operators to shun the terminus. Before Covid-19, the once quiet and cleanest town in East Africa was chaotic. Its CBD was a crowded eyesore.

CORRUPT OFFICIALS

Poor planning was marked by the haphazard sprouting of matatu terminus, thanks to the corrupt county officers who were dishing out parking spaces on major streets in the CBD to matatu operators.

"I can't believe it that the chaotic Shabab matatu terminus is no longer there. This is the right time for Governor Kinyanjui to crack the whip and ensure the town regains its lost glory," said a hotel owner on Mburu Gichua Road.

Prior to Covid-19, the CBD was messy. Matatu operators, boda-boda riders and tuk-tuk operators ignored the traffic rules.

Governor Kinyanjui and his predecessor Kinuthia Mbugua tried to relocate the chaotic bus stop from the CBD with little success.

"While coronavirus has caused deaths and much suffering in Kenya and across the globe, it has brought a sigh of relief to some of us whose businesses were held hostage by matatu operators," said a businessman who operates on Mburu Gichua Road.

TALL ORDER

Previously, getting a parking space at the CBD was a tall order as matatus, boda-boda and tuk tuk operators occupied all the spaces.

However, since the relocation, motorists and taxi drivers can now secure parking without much struggle.

"The CBD is less crowded, I am now not worried about getting a parking slot," said Mr Moses Njuguna, a taxi driver on Pandit Nehru Road.

"The reality on the ground is unbelievable. This may be a Godsend opportunity to Governor Kinyanjui to rid the town of chaos and leave a legacy," said a hotel owner on Mosque Road.

In the past, traders complained about cartels that control the CBD by dishing out parking lots.

The hardest hit area is Mburu Gichua and Pandit Nehru, Umandin Karimbux, Kenyatta Lane and Maralal roads that were converted into permanent matatu stages.

With the relocation of major amenities outside the CBD, many residents say this is an opportunity for Governor Kinyanjui to stamp his authority to restore the town's lost glory.

CURRENT MESS

"This is the right time for Mr Kinyanjui to sit down with all the stakeholders and agree on a master plan to rid the town the current mess," said a former town planner at the defunct Nakuru Municipal Council.

But matatu operators have complained of being dumped at Kenya Railway grounds.

"The county government must be serious in the way it handles our issues. Dumping us in a bush that has no sanitation facilities shows how insensitive the administration is to our welfare," said a matatu operator.

Governor Kinyanjui has a tough job and he may rely on his experience as a former National Transport and Safety Authority chairperson to turn around the fortunes of the fast growing town.

"Even before the coronavirus, my administration was working on a new CBD design and we are still on course. We shall engage all the stakeholders when we make the final decision," said Mr Kinyanjui.

"He may have missed his development target in his first year in office, but his tenure as the second governor of Nakuru will be judged by the way he will turn around the CBD," said Justus Monda, the national chairperson of Pyrethrum Growers Association.

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