Eastlands matatus back in town

A controversial decision to send all Eastlands matatus to the new Muthurwa terminus appears to be hitting a wall, as matatu operators get court orders allowing them back into the central business district.

A matatu picking passengers on Tom Mboya street, Nairobi

An Embakasi matatu picking up passengers from Nairobi’s Tom Mboya Street.

Matatus from Embakasi, Maringo, Buruburu and Outering were the first to obtain court orders temporarily allowing them to operate into the city. Lately, Kayole buses have also won similar orders and are now back to their former terminus at OTC. Indeed, many people from Eastlands no longer have to walk to Muthurwa to catch public transport. If anything, the court orders seem to have given matatu operators the leeway to collect passengers from virtually any street corner.

Double M, Kenya Bus and Citti Hoppa buses continue operating within the city centre because other routes that they ply, such as Kawangware and Ngummo, are legally allowed through the city. However, buses from the three companies operating to Eastlands routes often sneak into town through the industrial area or Majengo estates. Once in town, police don’t bother with them.

The Muthurwa terminus hasn’t been left deserted though. Matatus to Industrial Area, Umoja, LungaLunga, Komarock and Njiru/Ruai still operate from Muthurwa. From recent developments, its just a matter of time before they too go to court and are allowed into town.

Meanwhile, the Nairobi City Council and the Transport Licensing Board (TLB) have said that they will no longer recognize Eastlands routes ending within the city centre. Since the TLB is the legal body authorized to register matatus, the move is seen as an attempt to beat legal challenges launched by matatus against moving to Muthurwa.

Early this year, the Nairobi City Council and the Ministry of Local Government ordered that all Eastlands matatus move their operations to the Muthurwa terminus. Local Government minister at the time, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta (now Deputy Prime Minister) said the decision was meant to ease traffic congestion in the city. However, commuters and matatu operators criticized the move as inconsiderate and ill-planned. Not only were commuters forced to walk longer distances, but the Muthurwa terminus is still under construction with piles of soil everywhere.

Matatu operators claimed that the move was a ploy by Uhuru to convince hawkers to move from the city streets and into the Muthurwa hawkers market. What better way to do it, asked the matatu operators, than to create a captive market. If that really was the government’s intention, then it worked like magic. No sooner than matatus were forced into Muthurwa than all hawkers left city streets for their new market.

Nairobi is increasingly suffering from traffic congestion due to slow expansion of city streets. Many roads in Nairobi were planned and built by British colonialists back in the 1950s and 60s. By opening the Muthurwa terminus, the City Council hopes to move matatus from other parts of Nairobi to parking bays previously occupied by Eastlands matatus. For instance, South B route 11 will begin operating from the Central Bus Station. However, with continued resistance from Eastlands matatus, the City Council may have to wait a little longer to implement its plans to end the chaos currently on the streets of Nairobi.


One Response

  1. This is a real mess. I see a head-on collision coming ahead involving the stakeholders in the transportation industry.

    This is an issue that needs to be left to professionals in government to handle, not politicians.

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