Public transport to and from Nakuru town was Monday paralysed as matatu operators protested their relocation from the central business district.
Hundreds of commuters were stranded and forced to walk long distances as matatu operators withdrew their vehicles from the roads demonstrating against the move by the county government.
The protests also paralysed business in sections of the town’s main street, Kenyatta Avenue.
The matatu operators, who have accused the county government of failure to properly consult them before their relocation, engaged police in running battles as they protested the move, which they termed dictatorial.
Nakuru Human Rights Network Director David Kuria led the more than 100 matatu operators in the protest, demanding their return to Nakuru town’s CBD.
Police were forced to lob teargas canisters to disperse the angry protesters, who were demanding to be allowed back to the CBD and other parts of the town where they initially conducted their business before they were relocated in March following the Covid-19 outbreak.
A section of the town’s Kenyatta Avenue was turned into a battlefront as the police confronted the angry protesters.
Attempts to barricade roads within the town were thwarted by heavy contingents of police officers deployed to maintain law and order.
At the centre of the showdown are concerns that the county government relocated the matatus from the CBD and dumped them in places not favourable for their business and which do not have basic social amenities.
The matatu operators have accused the county government of neglecting them. They also complained of harassment by county askaris.
The operators said the county government used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to kick them out of town.
No social amenities
Addressing journalists at the Ziwani terminus, Mr Kuria said the new stages do not have the required social amenities yet Governor Lee Kinyanjui is forcing the matatus to remain there.
“We were relocated and dumped in places outside the CBD which do not have even social amenities like toilets. Whenever it rains, the situation becomes pathetic with passengers having to crowd in vehicles due to lack of shades,” said Mr Kuria.
“Governor Kinyanjui has now decided to use police officers to keep us out of the CBD yet his administration has not ensured the places we are currently operating from are favourable,” he added.
Police officers were also deployed to various entry points to Nakuru town.
Matatu operators who spoke with the Nation accused the county boss of not involving them in proper consultations before making the decision.
“We knew this was a well-orchestrated plan to effectively kick us out of the CBD but we will fight back and return by force. We have not been properly consulted,” Mr Sammy Kuria, a driver, told the Nation.
In response, Governor Kinyanjui termed the protests as uncalled-for.
“We consider the transport sector to be a critical enabler in unlocking development of the economy. This can only be achieved in a well-organised and planned manner. The county government of Nakuru has good intentions whose full implementation will lead to an expanded modern and vibrant town,” said the county boss.
He revealed plans by his administration to construct an ultra-modern bus terminus outside the CBD.
“The county is procuring a contractor to start the building of a modern transport centre that will include all amenities. We have already allocated Sh100 million for this project and will seek more funding to achieve better scope,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
While calling for patience and dialogue as the county seeks to construct the new terminus, Governor Kinyanjui said he will ensure the new matatu termini outside the CBD are refurbished.
The Nation learnt that the county government has acquired land at the Gate House roundabout, which was previously occupied by a private company, where it plans to establish the ultra-modern terminus.
Governor Kinyanjui announced the decision to lock matatus out of the CBD last week in a plan to decongest the town which is inching closer to a city status.