Alvin Mwangi @PeopleDailyKe
Nairobi was yesterday melting pot of chaos, confusion, desperation and anger stoked by the ban on matatus from accessing the central business district.
For the tens of thousands of commuters, who every morning head to the CBD—either to work or even transit to other destinations, it was a day like no other; as early as 4am, the traffic police and county askaris backed by the General Service Unit (GSU) and Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) had sealed all roads to bar public service vehicles (PSVs) from the various termini within the city centre.
Passengers were forced to alight at the new designated termini and trek to the CBD and beyond. There were no exceptions; the young, old and sick had to walk, often having to meander in between vehicles which were hardly moving.
A spot check by People Daily also revealed the inadequacy of the city’s infrastructural outlay, with commuters jamming available footbridges. Compounding their plight was the fact that pedestrian walkways are either too small or in most cases non-existent.
The ban caused a day-long traffic snarl-up as matatus blocked roads adjacent to the termini and those leading to and from the city centre. A number of residents conceded that although the ban is a noble idea, Governor Mike Sonko should have factored in infrastructural inadequacies and provided alternative means to ferry commuters from the new termini to the CBD.
Concern was expressed about people with special needs—the sick, expectant mothers, the disabled and the aged, among others—while others wondered what would happen in the event of downpour. Commuters also raised concerns over their security, especially at night, saying criminal elements would take advantage of the confusion to rob those trekking.
Cynical matatu operators, legislators and commuters called for suspension of the ban to pave way for consultations, pointing to its impracticality.
When he appeared before the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee, Nairobi Governor Sonko apologised to commuters for the pain caused by the ban, saying it was not meant to punish them but to bring order in the city.
“It is a good thing. All good things are painful. The aim is not to punish the same people who voted for us,” he said, adding: “Many people don’t go to the gym this is now part of exercise.”
Sonko said his administration has invested heavily in the construction of termini in Ngara and Muthurwa, which are ready for use and called for Parliament’s support to ensure the ban succeeds.
He said plans are underway to provide alternative means for commuters, besides addressing pertinent issues such as safety and security.
Meanwhile, the High Court declined to grant orders suspending the matatus ban from the CBD.
Justice Pauline Nyamweya, however, certified as urgent cases filed separately by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and 21 matatu sacco’s challenging the ban.
She directed them to serve the petition to the respondents for hearing on Thursday.