, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 29 – Nairobi was turned into a ‘walking’ city on Thursday as a crippling strike by Public Service Vehicles (PSV) in protest against punitive fines turned messy.
Chaos was reported in sections of the city such as Kangemi where matatu crews blocked the Nairobi-Nakuru highway and stoned motorists who tried to make their way through.
In the city centre, PSVs were parked in the middle of the road making parts of Moi Avenue, City Hall Way and Tom Mboya Street inaccessible to other users.
The PSV crews were protesting against new traffic rules that imposed heavy penalties for offenders.
The area around Kencom bus stop and Ambassadeur hotel was literally turned into parking lots for a better part of the day.
Stranded passengers told Capital FM News that they had been waiting for transport from as early as 11am.
Angela Nguta was in Nairobi seeking for a school loan from HELB but her plans to travel back to her home in Mwea were halted.
“I had come to HELB. I wanted to go back to Mwea but I cannot… there are no vehicles. I have been waiting for a vehicle from 11am hoping to get one but none that is going there,” she complained at Tea Room.
Maureen and her sick sister were in town to visit their mother who is admitted to the Kenyatta National Hospital, they were stranded for many hours at the Kencom bus stop.
“We were going to see our mother in hospital, but we can’t walk there because my sister has a problem with her leg. Now we cannot even see our mum and she is there on her own,” another passenger said.
Another disgruntled passenger lashed out at PSV drivers and conductors. She could not understand how being forced to adhere to traffic rules would make them paralyse public transport in the country.
“Are they (drivers and conductors) making us suffer because of refusing to follow traffic rules? They have to follow laws, they cannot refuse to follow laws and then make us suffer like this,” she complained.
However, what remained of concern to many Kenyans is why the police allowed the drivers and conductors to break traffic rules by obstructing public roads.
Nairobi residents resorted to Twitter to give updates on the matatu strike. Some of the tweets indicated that the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, Thika Road, Ngong Road and Rongai were seriously affected.
Some matatus and motorbikes that carried passengers were attacked.
“Kangemi is a no-go zone for touts and matatu operators have shut the Nairobi-Nakuru highway and they are attacking any vehicle that threatens to be in business. Avoid Landhies Road, Haile Selassie Avenue, Race Course, Ronald Ngala and Thika Road which have been closed by angry mobs,” some of the tweets warned.
“The general traffic chaos has spread. Reports indicate that matatus on Thika Road have joined the strike. There was indications that some matatus have been damaged at Githurai by protesters who wanted to force them to join the general strike. Protesting operators had torched two motorbikes, one at Karen and another one on racecourse,” another alert from Nairobi Crime Quarterly indicated.
Despite the confusion, PSV drivers and conductors vowed not to resume services until the high fines are reduced.