NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 6 – Police on Monday fired live ammunition and threw teargas canisters at matatu operators who were protesting alleged harassment by law enforcers and members of the outlawed Mungiki sect in Nairobi.,
The operators of route 44 to Githurai estate grounded their vehicles early Monday and vowed to resume work once they are assured of maximum protection from the government.
The matatu strike was peaceful until 11am when police clashed with the protesters who were found stoning other motorists on Thika road.
Dozens of the operators were arrested and taken to the Kasarani police station.
Area divisional Police chief said those arrested would face charges of incitement to violence, creating disturbance among others.
“We told them to remain peaceful throughout the demonstration but they turned violent and started throwing stones at innocent motorists, that is when we intervened to keep law and order,” he said.
He denied reports that his officers had been harassing the matatu operators.
“Whenever they break the law, they know it well that our officers will arrest them. If this is what they are talking about, then they are wrong because we are mandated to maintain law and order,” he said.
Mungiki Spokesman Njuguna Gitau defended his members against accusations of extortion and blamed the police for the mess.
“We are the aggrieved because our members are being targeted. Police have been arresting any one at matatu stages; these include drivers and conductors who are branded Mungiki. This must stop,” he said.
Mr Gitau said there were instances where some matatu operators are arrested more than five times and released.
“They (police) are always at the stages, they keep taking our members and detaining them. None is released unless a bribe of between Sh500 and Sh1000 is given out,” he said.
He cited five unnamed police officers of being notorious in the extortion ring.
“We know them. They are usually busy collecting money in the name of fighting Mungiki at matatu stages,” he said.
When reached for comment, Mr Ombati denied the claims and maintained his officers were justified in the crackdown.
“They (Mungiki) can not be left to continue extorting motorists and harassing the people. The crackdown will continue,” he said.