Kenyans taxed in police crackdown

The Kenyan government has been criticized for using traffic crackdowns on commuter transport to collect hundreds of millions in the form of road fines.

According to public transport drivers, traffic police are arresting and fining them for such things as dusty windshields, faded bodywork and even frayed shirt collars!

The Kenya Police is in the midst of its notorious, “crackdowns” following public pressure to curb rampant road accidents on Kenyan roads. Road safety in Kenya is seriously compromised by poor enforcement of traffic laws, corruption and a crumbling road network. “Its not as though we don’t have enough traffic laws, but the laws are enforced arbitrarily,” says motoring writer Gavin Bennett. “The police can stop you for not having enough air pressure in your tyres while an overloaded bus belching black smoke is waved past you.”

The crackdowns are worsened by the tendency of the police to have them in the morning, during the commuter rush to work. Its common to find hundreds of passengers stranded at major intersections after being forced out of buses and matatus. Of course, the bus operators rarely refund the remainder of the fare to passengers when their vehicles are arrested. However, the effectiveness of the police crackdowns is in doubt as the “offending” vehicles can be seen back on the road in a matter of hours.

Passengers have been hauled into police cells for not wearing seatbelts in public transport vehicles. On any given day, Kenyan courts will be filled with thousands of commuters who will be fined anything between Kshs300 and Kshs500 (US$4.8 – $8). Just before the court hearings, police prosecutors will “advise” the incarcerated commuters to, plead guilty, pay the fine and go home. If you plead “not guilty,” the case could drag on indefinitely with little possibility of an acquittal.

Traffic crackdowns on commuter transport do not happen in the evenings because Kenyan law does not allow police to detain people over-night for traffic offences. For the same reason, crackdowns are rarely done during weekends or public holidays because courts do not open on those days. However, weekday mornings are ideal because justice can be dispensed by mid-afternoon.

By its own admission, the Kenya government collects almost Kshs500 million each year from minor traffic offences. Public transport operators say its a scam to increase government revenue. And from the conduct of the Kenya police and the judiciary, these allegations may just be correct.

Ongoing police crackdowns on passenger transport vehicles across Kenya is worsening an inefficient commuter transport system, resulting in delays and short tempers.

2 Responses

  1. its the 27nth day of the first month of the year 2009,and what suprises me most is the ruthless nature of the way the traffic police are handling the matatu industry which can be said to be a trademark of kenya and a source of livelihood to almost 3 million kenyans,i dont mean to call for liniency from the forces but am not at the same time advocating for excessive use of force.Why cant somebody rise up and protect the flashy matatus from extinction.dont you guys realise its also part of tourist attraction.

  2. Every time you get arrested by the police you either pay ‘kitu kidogo’ or they will waste your time and money. More than what you would have parted with. Most Kenyans just add two to two and come up with the best option.

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