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Long walk to work for city residents

Commuters to the city centre walked for hours on Wednesday after Public Service Vehicles in Nairobi blocked the major roads in protest against increased parking charges by the county government.

Private motorists were not spared as the crews using minibuses, vans and saloon car taxis blocked most streets within the city primarily to ensure people did not reach their places of work.

Other commuters turned to the trains, which made several trips and were full with the new stations in Makadara, Imara Daima and Pipeline fully packed.

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero was among about two million people caught up in the chaos and he walked from Kenyatta Avenue to his office, after his motorcade found the roads blocked.

The PSVs defied police orders to clear from the roads and marched to the Governor’s office shouting slogans among them “Kidero Must Go”, “Where is Sonko” in reference to Nairobi Senator Gideon Mbuvi who has previously gone to court on behalf of the matatus.

Attempts by Dr Kidero to end the menace failed after he ordered the crews to stop blocking the roads before any negotiations could take place. They refused.

“We will not allow violation of the law, blackmail and impunity to continue. You should first remove the vehicles from the roads before we can hold any negotiations,” he told them.

Governor booed

The governor was booed after giving the taxi men an ultimatum to remove their vehicles from the streets.

They in turn demanded that the levies, which they claimed had more than been doubled, be reduced immediately before they could comply with the orders.

But as the day wore on, Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru led ordered officers to remove the number plates of dozens of taxis which had obstructed the road around City Hall area.

Matatus which also had blocked traffic within the city and on other roads like Thika Superhighway, as well as Juja and Jogoo roads escaped as the police swung into action, with Mr Kimaru saying they would be hunted down and the owners prosecuted.

He said it was an offence to block any road using a motor vehicle, warning that owners of the vehicles would be charged with obstruction and misuse of their vehicles.

“It is an offence to block this road as it is a public utility,” he said.

“We cannot allow this to happen and owners of these vehicles have only themselves to blame,” he added while addressing journalists at City Hall roundabout hours after a charged crowd had been chased away from the area.

There was tight security as the motor vehicle inspection officers plucked off the registration number plates. Taxi owners watched in shock from a distance.

“We have also arrested several drivers who engaged in this act and they will be charged too,” said Mr Kimaru.

Some however managed to escape with their vehicles but the commandant said they would also be caught as police had recorded their vehicle registration numbers.

Nairobi Metropolitan PSV Saccos Union chairman Peter Ngige and the union secretary Godfrey Akuma termed this an act of intimidation, adding they would challenge the police in court.

The crews later returned to work after holding talks with Senator Mbuvi in the afternoon.