A planned matatu strike in Nakuru to protest Governor Lee Kinyanjui’s decision to lock them out of the town’s central business district flopped on Wednesday after operators differed over the call for an indefinite strike.
More than 80 matatu owners and sacco chairmen had on Tuesday announced a planned strike and vowed to withdraw their vehicles until Mr Kinyanjui addresses their grievances.
Led by matatu and boda-boda operators Federation of Kenya National Chairman Kushian Muchiri, they directed drivers and public transport staff to down tools until the Governor allows them back into the CBD.
However, a spot check by the Nation on Wednesday revealed that most matatu saccos were still operating.
“We have agreed with Governor Kinyanjui that we remain at the new matatu terminuses. The county will then move in and refurbish the areas and also ensure they have the necessary social amenities. That is why we are not on strike,” said a leader of the NASU sacco that operates the Nakuru-Subukia route.
Other saccos whose vehicles were still operating include NAGIL, 4NTE and Mololine among others.
The Nation established that only matatus belonging to the Central Rift Association had withdrawn their services, paralysing transport along some routes, including Nakuru-Molo, Nakuru-Njoro, Nakuru-Kabarnet, and Nakuru-Eldama Ravine.
Other matatu operators that halted services include Prestige Shuttle, 2NK, Nyakakima Line, and Nairobi Line.
Nakuru Human Rights Network director David Kuria, who is also a matatu owner, maintained that the strike was on until Mr Kinyanjui fully addresses their concerns.
“We are on strike and we are demanding audience with Governor Kinyanjui to explain the issues we want addressed. We will not relent until we are allowed back into the CBD,” said Mr Kuria.
Central Rift Matatus Association chairman Steve Muli confirmed that they have directed all vehicles to withdraw services until Mr Kinyanjui addresses their concerns.
“We want to teach Governor Kinyanjui a lesson. He cannot eject us from the CBD and continue subjecting us to deplorable conditions. There are no sanitation facilities, shades or offices at the new stages,”said Mr Muli
For a long time, most matatu saccos have been operating from within the CBD, where they have opened offices in buildings and park their vehicles on the streets, causing congestion and impeding free flow of traffic.
On his part, the county boss says he sees a political hand in the recent violent protests that rocked the town over the relocation of matatus.
The governor, while reacting to the two-day strike staged by matatu operators, blamed unnamed local politicians for using the operators to push their own agenda.
According to him, they have vested interests and are taking advantage of the situation to incite the operators to disrupt development plans by the county.
He thus cautioned operators against mixing politics with business.
“I wish to request the matatu operators to appreciate that the county government has good plans for them and I urge them to separate their business from politics in order to achieve the objective,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
He noted that his administration has elaborate plans to improve the sector, including acquisition of land and re-planning the already existing land in a bid to expand and modernise the terminuses.
The governor, however, maintained that the planning of the town is the sole responsibility of the government which has the mandate of making decisions in consultation with other stakeholders.
Governor Kinyanjui dismissed claims that he had refused to meet the operators while accusing them of hypocrisy after they declined to turn up for a scheduled meeting.
The five-hour protest on Monday saw transport paralysed within Nakuru town as operators faced off with police over the ban.
The operators wanted to forcibly return to the CBD, decrying deplorable conditions in the three terminuses where they were redistributed.
Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria was arrested in connection with the protests.
County Police Commander Tito Kilonzi said the MP was among the chief organisers of the demos.