, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 5 – Protesting matatu and taxi operators in Nairobi were on Wednesday violently dispersed by police after they barricaded various city roads.
The taxi operators who blocked all roads around City Hall were soon joined by their matatu counterparts who drove into the city centre from various routes, which they had earlier barricaded.
At City Hall, they were addressed by Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko who advised them to continue paying prior rates while calling on Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to consult widely before imposing new fees.
“I would like to appeal to Governor Kidero to consult with other leaders when making major decisions about the County. This County is not Mumias Sugar (Company, where Kidero worked previously). From today, you should not pay the increased rates,” Sonko advised the protesting operators.”
The operators accused Kidero of reneging on his assurance that they would continue paying the previous rates pending conclusion of negotiations.
The crowd danced and waved twigs at City Hall’s entrance while chanting anti-Kidero slogans before proceeding to burn the County Government flag.
Kidero on his part maintained that the County Government would not be blackmailed and pointed out that negotiations would only occur after the vehicles which blocked city streets were removed.
“The County Government will not tolerate blackmail; neither will it tolerate impunity. So we have just agreed that they will get the matatus to stop blocking the roads then we will discuss and come to an agreement,” he stated after a meeting with matatu association officials.
“Without the matatus stopping the blockade, we will not have any discussions. If it is done in the next 10 minutes, then we will have a meeting and agree,” he said.
Matatu Owners Association Chairman Simon Kimutai on the other hand indicated that City Hall did not honor a gentleman’s agreement arrived at during an earlier meeting with the operators to discuss the increased parking fees.
Speaking following a subsequent meeting with Kidero on Wednesday, Kimutai revealed that they had agreed that operators should pay previous rates pending ratification of the new fees by the County Assembly.
“There were agreements! And this strike was not planned… it was a spontaneous reaction from what was agreed upon; there were no explanations whatsoever that there would be a process that would lead our people to continue paying the rates that were there,” he said.
“The gentleman’s agreement was very clear and we communicated the same to our members. When they came to pay the agreed rates which were reviewed, they found that it was difficult to have the money accepted.”
He pointed out that according to the agreement, the fee for a 14-seater matatu should go down from Sh5,000 to Sh3,650; a 33-seater mini bus from Sh8,000 to Sh5,500 and for bigger buses the negotiated rate was Sh7,200 down from Sh10,000.
“Nairobi residents are suffering, it’s not our core business to be on the streets; our business is to transport Kenyans. We wouldn’t want Kenyans to suffer, the county government has got to honour its pledge.”
Earlier on, the operators and taxi drivers turned down an attempt by the Governor to stop the strike and hold discussions with the County Government.
Kidero had to alight from his car at the intersection of Wabera Street and Kenyatta Avenue and walk to his office where he invited five representatives of the protestors for talks.
He emphasised the need for them not to inconvenience pedestrians and other motorists as this would have a negative impact on productivity.
The matatu operators however declined his request but later on, they agreed to meet with him.
“Kidero should come out and speak to us and tell us how we can continue operating our businesses. This money being demanded is a lot and that is why we have blocked these roads. He is now saying that we should bring five people so that they can talk but he did that just recently and nothing came of it. He should address us all and stop wavering on agreements.”
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