Kenya public transporters' strike fizzles out

Nairobi residents cross the railways bridge leading to the Central Business District on their way to work following a strike by public transport operators November 30, 2012. The strike has since fizzled out. JULIUS BETT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The public transport operators (matatu) strike called to protest Kenya's new stringent traffic rules, petered out in most parts of the country Friday.

However, thousands of commuters in Nairobi and Nyeri (north of the capital) were forced to walk to work as public transport operators stayed off the roads for the second day.

This came as the Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) called off the strike.

Chairman Simon Mbugua said MWA had opened negotiations with government with a view to reviewing the tough traffic rules.

A spot check revealed that matatus plying most Nairobi routes kept off roads as Kenyans chose alternative means to work, including using motorcycle taxis, better known as boda boda.

In Nyeri, residents were forced to walk to work as matatu operators boycotted, paralysing public transport.

The operators barricaded major roads leading to the town, disrupting the smooth flow of traffic.

It took the intervention of police officers who cleared illegal roadblocks erected by some of the striking operators.

The main bus terminus was empty.

Were punitive

Mr John Maregwa, the Operations Manager at 2NK Sacco, said the strike followed the move by Transport minister Amos Kimunya to introduce harsh traffic rules.

He termed the new regulations as draconian and appealed to government to reconsider the move.

“The minister should have consulted all stakeholders before making such a move,” said Mr Maregwa.

The operators converted the main bus stage into a football pitch.

"We are enjoying ourselves here because no business is taking place at this bus stage,” said one of the matatu operators.

Police were on high alert and patrolling the area to avert any ugly incident.

In the port city of Mombasa, matatus operated as usual with some operators calling on the government to implement the existing laws first.

"We cannot strike because we know there is usually a best alternative to block the implementation of the law even if it means going to court if need be,” said George Mwadime, a matatu driver plying the Mombasa-Mtwapa route.

He said the new laws, which will be implemented starting Saturday, were punitive and there is need to review them.

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