, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 4 – This morning, a section of Matatu operators took their vehicles off the road, in what they claimed is a protest against alleged harassment by traffic police.
The strike has been called by the Matatu Welfare Association only; the Matatu Vehicle Owners Association was not part of it.
The strike was timed to coincide with the busiest Monday of the annual calendar when Kenyans are travelling back to work from their holidays and children are going back to school. The intention of the striking Matatu operators was to cause the maximum pain, disruption and inconvenience to innocent Kenyans. This is blackmail and the Kenya Police finds it unacceptable.
The current traffic operation is not targeted at Matatu alone; it is targeted at all vehicles and motorists. Its intention is not to harass Matatu drivers or other motorists, it is intended to save lives and enforce traffic law. Steps have been taken to apprehend any police officer demanding bribes from offending drivers. Those caught will face very severe consequences.
Matatu operators and the public in general are assured that every possible effort is being made to ensure that traffic police officers are courteous and honest in their dealings with motorists, including PSV drivers.
The police department is implementing a policy of zero-tolerance for corruption as part of ongoing internal reforms.
Last year alone, we prosecuted 26 officers, five of them police inspectors, who were caught receiving bribes from motorists. We will continue with these efforts until discipline and professionalism is instilled in all aspects of traffic management.
Corruption should, therefore, not be used as an excuse for disobedience of the law. All Kenyans know that in recent years, Matatu operators have become notorious for disobeying traffic regulations and laws. The gains made in 2003/4 have largely been lost because Matatu operators are either not fitting safety belts or requiring passengers to use them.
A good number of Matatu operators have either removed or tampered with speed governors. Many are defying regulations on noise pollution.
Rare is the Matatu driver who operates his motor vehicle with courtesy to other motorists, pedestrians and passengers.
The result is that Kenya is going back to the bad old days of sheer chaos on our roads and a rising number of deaths and serious injuries.
Being on our roads has become a nightmare for both passengers and motorists yet again.
Kenyans in general and Matatu operators in particular are hereby informed that this state of chaos and carnage cannot be allowed to stand.
The current traffic operations will not only continue, they will be stepped up both by the police and the directorate of motor vehicle inspection. And this is not a one-off crackdown, this will be a continuous exercise until sanity returns to our roads and Kenyans can travel in safety and comfort.
There is no ambiguity about whose responsibility it is to enforce traffic law and regulations: it is the job of the police, with help from other competent authorities.
Those Matatu operators who are willing to obey the law, to put the lives of Kenyans before money, are urged to put their vehicles back on the road and resume the essential service which they offer the nation. Police will endeavour to guarantee their security.
Those operators who want to continue operating as a lawless underworld, the sooner they get out of Matatu business the better. There is no place for lawlessness on our roads or any other part of our society. Only law-abiding and roadworthy public service vehicles which are operated in compliance with traffic laws will be allowed to operate.
Kenya Police regrets the inconvenience caused passengers across the country by the blackmail by some Matatu owners. The Commissioner of Police is saddened that even some innocent children were unable to attend school today.
However we appeal to Kenyans to be patient and to persevere. In the end, the current operation will make our roads safer and travel more comfortable.
The Commissioner of Police takes this opportunity to appreciate all those Kenyans including the media, who have come out strongly to support the rule of law.
For: Commissioner of Police