By Bernard Momanyi
I am not opposed to the traffic police crackdown, but unhappy with the way our law enforcement officers are conducting it.
It is more of a public relations exercise they do to please their masters and Kenyans when they realize a thing or two have gone wrong.
Why won’t they sustain it, if its objective is what Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere told us on September 8, 2009 when he took over the reigns at Vigilance House.
[–To maintain law and order, bring sanity and curb road accidents which are claiming an increasingly high number of people on our roads–]
If this is the objective of a traffic crackdown, then it surely needs to be carried out 24/7, not when an accident has occurred on Mombasa road and killed more than ten people.
Without fear of contradicting myself in any discussion forum hereafter, I am now convinced beyond any reasonable doubt, that the police are to blame for the impunity that has become of motorists, particularly matatus in the country.
They now break traffic laws with no second thought in mind, they never think of [what if I am arrested] because they are used to how our Kenyan police officers operate.
One week they are all over our roads stopping all matatus without safety belts, speed governors or those overloaded and the other week [s] they are not bothered.
They are seen the following week directing traffic for the same vehicles they were stopping and detaining the previous week and are not bothered to check if they complied with the required safety measures.
During last week’s crackdown conducted in Nairobi for instance, I was impressed to see police detain over 400 matatus from the major routes which, one senior traffic commander told me, had flouted their regulations.
Most of the defective matatus were detained at the Nairobi Area Traffic headquarters yard while others were parked at various police stations in the city.
But that was for only two days, on the third day, the number [of those detained] had drastically reduced to less than 30 and I asked myself where had they gone?
One policeman told me owners had paid fines and given their vehicles back, with an order to observe compliance.
This being the Kenya we all know, I have confirmed that those vehicles are back on the roads and are still breaking laws with impunity.
They are still overloading, speeding, overlapping and are carrying passengers in those same seats which have no safety belts.
I am convinced that if the crackdowns were sustained, these rowdy matatu operators will have known the need to observe the laws and maintain sanity.
They will not be making illegal U-turns in the middle of highways, pick or drop passengers at non-designated terminus.
They do this because they know crackdowns are only done on specific days or weeks. Not everyday.
They also do this because they know they only need a few hundreds or thousands to get themselves off the hook when arrested or their vehicles detained.
No wonder the Kenya Police maintains the top position in the annual corruption index of Transparency International [TI].
I will wait to see if the police will sustain the security operation they launched on Friday where they pledged to ensure no motorist or pedestrian jumps traffic lights in Nairobi.
[The writer is a Crime Reporter at 98.4 Capital FM]