, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 30 – The Matatu Welfare Association has announced a three day strike starting Monday next week to protest against alleged police harassment.
The association\’s Chairman Dickson Mbugua alleges the transport industry is losing up to 1.5 billion annually owing to bribes and wasted working hours.
Announcing the strike on Wednesday Mr Mbugua said Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and the Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere had failed to address their grievances despite numerous assurances.
“The intensified crackdowns have become a recipe for extortion and bribes of between Sh5,000 to Sh10,000 per driver and owner,” he said at a consultative meeting of owners and operators of public service vehicles in Nairobi.
The association claimed that the police were known to prefer fake charges against those who refused to give bribes.
“At the courts we are being fined up to Sh70,000.”
Mr Mbugua said the association was not opposed to enactment of laws in the country but the manner of implementation.
“The officers go to the field with two agendas. First they want to appear to implement the law and secondly to collect money,” he complained.
The strike is likely to cause a transport crisis coming at a time when schools re-open for the New Year.
The Matatu Drivers and Conductors association which has supported the strike said police had continued to harass PSV crews even when they have obeyed the rules.
“We are not out to punish travelers but we are tired of this constant harassment which is most of the times unjustified. The bribes and court fines have impoverished us,” the association’s chairman Samson Wainaina said.
Police have intensified crackdowns on un roadworthy vehicles in the last month drawing complaints of harassment from the industry players.
In his Jamhuri Day speech, President Mwai Kibaki ordered police to get rid of all un roadworthy vehicles in a bid to reduce the high rate or road accidents.
The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has also in the last week been cracking down on PSVs that exceed prescribed noise levels.
Mr Mbugua said they had no problem with NEMA but wants the authority to carry out the crackdowns professionally and fairly.
The association said should their strike fail to yield any impact, they would come up with an alternative.
“We are open to dialogue and should the government be willing to address our grievances before Monday then we shall not insist with the strike,” Mr Mbugua said.
Besides police harassment the association is also protesting ‘unnecessary towing of PSVs by City Council askaris.’