Alvin Mwangi @PeopleDailyKe
Hopelessness, dejection and frustration by a teary Esther Waruguru, 45, who was scheduled for a heart check-up at the Kenyatta National Hospital summed up the agony experienced by thousands of Kenyans who had to walk long distances to their destinations or to catch a connecting vehicle.
The moments of despair followed the contentious ban on matatu from Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD) by the county government taking effect yesterday.
“I boarded a matatu from my home in Kangai village, Kirinyaga County at 4am and was in Ngara by 6.30am because I needed to get to Kenyatta Hospital in time,” she said.
Ordinarily, she would alight at Commercial in the middle of the CBD and get a connecting bus across the road at the Kencom bus stop. But with no matatu going past Ngara, her options were limited to either catching a taxi she could not afford or cross the city on a failing heart. Neither was viable, so she sat on the crowded pavement and resigned to fate.
“I am in pain, I cannot join other Kenyans who are walking to their destinations as my feet have already swollen. Even a short distance leaves my heart in a lot of pain,” she said. And all around her, Kenyans shuffled past, their faces forlorn as they tried to adjust to the new normal.
And several hours later, Waruguru’s situation was unchanged, only more desperate. She lay her head on her husband’s shoulders. Tears flowed freely from his eyes as his watched his wife groan in pain.
“Niliamka asubuhi kuwapigia kura saa hii bibi yangu anaumia na mimi sina uwezo (I woke up early to vote them in and now my wife is suffering),” Nicholas Maina told People Daily.
Their son Dennis Kimani, 19, watched from a distance trying to make phone calls which, from the look of things, didn’t seem to be bearing much fruit.
Waruguru eventually got help from good Samaritans who sought her a cab to the KNH and got admission at 2.45pm where People daily left her undergoing treatment.
But she was not alone in the painful situation. Across town, Michael Omondi was stuck at Kariokor also seeking a means to get KNH for a backbone checkup. He arrived in the city from Siaya on Friday and had been hosted by a relative in Buruburu since. His appointment at the hospital was slotted for 9.00 pm and an hour past, he was still kilometres away wondering what to do as he could not walk.
Armed police and county traffic marshals were deployed at major entry points yesterday to enforce the ban on Public Service Vehicles PSVs from the CBD that has been received with bitterness and anger by everyone apart from the county authority, pick pockets and boda boda operators. The operators made a killing ferrying stranded commuters at double the usual prices.
“I have made some good cash today. From town to Ngara, I am charging Sh300 instead of the usual Sh100 to Sh150,” an operator confided.
The situation was dire at Fig-Tree in Ngara as a sea of humanity jostled for space on the only walk- bridge. Hundreds of commuters who used the facility lost valuables as pick-pockets struck at will. “My handbag has been snatched and it carried my CV and return fare,” said Faith Wanjiru, a recent graduate.
At Globe overpass, the situation was more of the biblical journey to Canaan as pedestrians took over the road in their thousands among the private and government vehicles allowed through. Similar situation was replicated along Jogoo road as commuters who reside in Eastlands had to walk from City Stadium.
“The Matatu has dropped me here (City Stadium) and I will have to walk all the way to Upper hill. Governor Sonko should consider our suffering before issuing such directive,” a commuter said.
Even businesses were not spared the pinch as most registered little happenings. At Nyamakima, a common stage for Nakuru, Molo, Nyahururu and Muranga, most shopkeepers remained glued to their screens with no customers to attend to.
“I have served only two customers since morning, there are no people to be served today,” Njue, a shoe-shiner at Koja said.
Ironically, the ban meant to curb congestion in the city saw the capital with one of the worst traffic jams ever. Distances as short as one kilometre took more than an hour.
But Sonko assured Kenyans the situation will improve as the county government holds discussions with stakeholders. He further said he has spoken with the National government on how the problem will be resolved amicably.
But critics have accused the governor of not consulting with stakeholders before effecting the ban. Nairobi County Minority leader Peter Imwatok also faulted Sonko for making the decision without involving the County Assembly.
“Nairobi cannot operate with reactions and moods. Proper strategy should be followed,” he said. At the same time, Imwatok claimed the ban was a plan by some cartels to introduce their buses them to the public.