Matatu crews boycott work in Eastlands

March 21, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 21 – Matatu operators from Kayole, Dandora, Komarock and parts of Umoja estates in Nairobi are now demanding the arrest and prosecution of Embakasi Member of Parliament Ferdinand Waititu for allegedly inciting the Mungiki.

The operators who staged a major protest in Nairobi on Monday said they feared members of the Mungiki sect would resume their extortion activities after being encouraged by the MP.

"We fear for our lives… we cannot operate freely anymore because the Mungiki adherents may come back and do what they used to by demanding money from every matatu because Waititu has incited them," one matatu driver on route number 19/61 which serves Kayole estate said.

He was among hundreds of matatu drivers and conductors who grounded their operations and parked vehicles on Haile Selassie Avenue to protest the alleged harassment by the MP.

Over the weekend, the MP is alleged to have uttered words "vijana warudi kazi" which the matatu operators said translated to mean "The Mungiki should resume (their extortion) work."

"Hatuwezi fanya kazi kama Mungiki wanaambiwa warudi kazi, [we cannot work if Mungiki are being urged to resume operations]," another matatu operator who only identified himself as Njoro said.

"We want the government to take action against the MP.  He should be made to explain what he meant when he said vijana warudi kazi," he added.

The matatu operators ground their operations and parked vehicles on the roadside along Haile Selassie Avenue to await the outcome of a meeting between their representatives and government officials at the Office of the President.

The officials who had wanted to meet Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti or his Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia were still camping at Harambee House by Monday afternoon.

"We will not resume our operations until we get a satisfactory response and assurance from the government," the operators said.

"It means a lot to have Mungiki resume work.  We have stayed for more than a year now without those criminals harassing us. It is scary to hear they are coming back," Peter Njoroge, a conductor on route 19C said.

Mr Njoroge told Capital News the Mungiki operators usually demand up to Sh1,800 from a bus on a daily basis as security fees.

"You can imagine we have nearly 600 or more busses on this route that is a lot of money they collect from us on a daily basis.  But since the owners joined saccos the extortionists have not been harassing us," he added and revealed they fear the Mungiki because they charge them for everything.

"Hata ukichapa bibi yako Mungiki wanakuja kudai pesa [even when you beat your wife Mungiki will come to demand money]," he said in jest.

But in a quick rejoinder, Mr Waititu denied the incitement allegations saying he was only defending the youth against police brutality. He instead blamed the standoff on the police accusing them of supporting one of the matatu Saccos which is paying police to harass his constituents.

He has also accused the police of engaging in extra-judicial killings in his constituency in the war to flush out Mungiki sect members.

Mr Waititu says over 20 youths have been killed by the police since January and urged them to use legal means to deal with criminals including Mungiki sect members.

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