NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 1 – It is the end of the road for the UmoInner Sacco fleet of buses after the government cancelled its operating license following the Wednesday morning accident at the Mutindwa crossing that left 12 people dead and scores injured.
A furious Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau returned to the country on Friday to read the riot act to the sacco, other Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators, squatters and even the courts.
Kamau held the UmoInner bus driver squarely responsible for the accident as he had tried and tragically failed to speed past the Mutindwa train tracks as a train was approaching.
“This fellow does not even possess a driver’s licence, the accident occurred when he was trying to overlap; he defied a police order to stop and he was wearing earphones. How was he supposed to hear anything? What kind of a driver is that?” he posed.
Kamau went on to instruct Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru to ensure all PSVs on the UmoInner fleet undergo inspection so charges can be brought against the Sacco should their buses be found unroadworthy.
“I don’t care whether there are a million vehicles or whether they are two or three, those vehicles should move on the roads. The same way we did with Eldoret Express, the same way we did with City to City. You cause an accident that causes death we suspend your licence, you go for further inspection,” he directed.
Umoinner Sacco however came out fighting with their supporters shouting down the Cabinet Secretary and his Principal Secretary Nduva Muli who were addressing the press at the scene of Wednesday’s accident.
They protested that their driver was licenced and demanded that the Cabinet Secretary allow their buses back on the road once they pass inspection; an order they insisted they had already complied with.
Kimaru however differed accusing the Sacco of duplicity, “Did you not tell us you have 100 vehicles? We only have 48 in our possession and I’ve heard you’ve taken them to workshops to have their subwoofers and such things removed.”
Kamau also chastised the Sacco for putting its financial interests before the safety of its passengers, “Can’t you first offer your condolences for the lives lost before jumping down my throat? Have you even bothered to visit the bereaved or those still admitted in hospital?”
The Sacco in turn challenged the government to take some ownership for the accident arguing that the road that passes over the Mutindwa railway line was illegally constructed.
The Sacco Chairman Christopher Muia also said that they had offered to construct a barrier at the Mutindwa crossing in May but were turned down by the rail company.
“They said if it was to be erected they would pay for it out of their own pockets,” Muia told Capital FM News.
But even as the Sacco and the government traded blame, the traders whose shacks straddle the railway line at Mutindwa pledged to comply with the Cabinet Secretary’s directive that they clear out.
Kamau said his Ministry had already begun demolishing any and all structures erected on road or rail reserves — even in the Mutindwa area where an injunction is in place.
“Twelve people died on that matatu. Tell me how many more would have died if the train hadn’t already passed those shacks over there…have you been to Mukuru? People sell their wares on the railway line only moving when they hear a train approach. This is madness,” he said.