, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 30 – Police on Wednesday lobbed teargas to disperse rowdy matatu operators who blocked roads in downtown Nairobi ahead of Thursday’s planned strike to protest parking license cancellation.
Trouble started when county askaris started impounding matatus parked on Ronald Ngala and other adjacent streets, prompting police to lob teargas at operators who tried to attack them.
Several drivers and conductors were taken into custody as police battled to end the afternoon chaos which affected businesses for hours.
There were no immediate reports of major casualties, although police confirmed a few people were injured in the melee that forced shop owners to shut their businesses fearing thugs could take advantage to loot.
“Why did they have to take away the licenses? Some of us have already paid for next month,” one operator said, “we are doing genuine business and must be allowed to park vehicles on the streets.”
The operators have threatened to strike from Thursday if City Hall does not reinstate their parking licenses which enable them to pick or drop passengers down town.
The licenses were cancelled on Tuesday in a move Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said is aimed at decongesting the city, but the operators have termed the directive as discriminatory while arguing that it only favours shop owners.
“We were not even given notices, but we have learnt that the decision was taken after meetings between City Hall and shop owners,” another matatu driver said, “It is unfair.”
But a City Hall official has told Capital FM News that the operators were informed long before the decision was taken.