NAIROBI, Kenya, May 1 – The government plans to involve Matatu industry players to reinforce the "Michuki rules" that sought to instill sanity in the transport industry.
The collaboration will start with the reintroduction of uniforms for all drivers and conductors to avoid thugs penetrating the industry in the disguise of being touts. With the introduction of the rules in 2004 drivers were designated blue uniforms while touts are supposed to maroon ones but over time most of them no longer wear them.
Provincial administration Secretary Kenneth Lusaka said that a multi-sectoral meeting between various government departments and players in the transprt sector will meet next week to chart on appropriate measures to end carjackings and reduce road accidents.
The meeting will bring together permanent secretaries from the ministries of Iinternal Security, Transport, Local Government and Nairobi Metropolitan, the Attorney General, Police Commissioner, the Transport Licensing Board provincial administration, matatu owners association and representatives of drivers and conductors to formulate a policy to address the myriad problems facing the sector.
Mr. Lusaka spoke while opening a one day workshop for matatu drivers and touts organised by the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Agency (NACADAA) at the City Hall. The workshop aimed at sensitising the drivers and touts on the contribution of drug abuse towards insecurity, armed robberies and carjackings. He asked the touts to desist from bribing police officers or paying extortionist gangs as this further led to escalation of insecurity in the sector.
"Let the police check the vehicles and passenger thoroughly and do not be too willing to pay bribes and extortion fee." The Secretary cautioned them. "The rule of law must be observed on our roads all the times.”
He intimated that between 60-80 percent of all road accidents involving the youth were caused by drug, alcoholism and substance abuse. At the same time Mr Lusaka attributed the rising number of carjackings to corruption and flouting of traffic laws by matatu crew.
"When you bribe a police officer, you obstruct him from doing his work of checking the passengers and in that way carjackers have a field day," he said adding that the habbit of over loading passengers enables thugs to conceal their weapons.
Mr Lusaka reiterated the government’s committment to providing security to the sector so as to enable the industry ‘flourish’ in an enabling environment.
"Security is one of the basic needs that supercede other neccessities, and as a government we will ensure all investors in the matatu sector get good returns from their investments without unnecessary obstacles,” he added.
Mr Lusaka said that the government had developed a unified approach to deal with organised crime and gangs such as Mungiki. He cited examples of Uganda and Tanzania where he said sanity had prevailed and asked matatu operators to ask ‘when the rain started beating us’.
NACADAA Director Jeniffer Kimani said that a survey conducted last year in Nairobi indicated that 70 percent of matatu crew in Nairobi were working under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The statistics above and the fact that drug movement is facilitated through matatu necessitated the need to organise the forum so as to enlist the support of the drivers and conductors in fighting this vice.
"For drugs or changaa to be transported from one place to another, matatu crew are always aware and they can stop this," she said adding that most touts and drivers said they were involved in drug abuse due to work pressure.
She encouraged the matatu operators to use uniforms while at work to avoid being penetrated by thugs who may disguise as touts. The workshop aims to stop new recruits to drug abuse in the matatu industry who easily fall prey to the vice due to peer pressure. Ms Kimani announced that the campaign will target major cities and provincial headquarters where the vice is rampant.