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Matatus, hawkers invasion of city streets worrying

The hawker and matatu menace in the Nairobi city centre is causing concern despite promises by the county government that the matter is being resolved.

Failing to enforce regulations has led to a choking explosion of hawkers, boda bodas, street families, taxis and matatus in the central business district (CBD).

Matatu operators, notorious for flouting rules, are increasingly getting bolder in the city centre, picking up and dropping passengers at undesignated areas.

This is happening as new bus stops crop up, with use of some roads restricted, worsening the situation.

A spot check on Moi Avenue, Tom Mboya Street and Ronald Ngala Street in the CBD found chaotic scenes during the rush hours, with pedestrians, street families, hawkers and beggars vying for space.

Nearby, boda bodas were taking over junctions from where they pick up and drop passengers despite orders that they keep out of the CBD.

To illustrate the chaos and congestion during rush hours, dozens of matatus park on Moi Avenue as they wait in line to pick up passengers at the adjoining Tom Mboya Street.


And on Ronald Ngala Street, matatus plying Githurai, Umoja and Dandora routes usually block stretches of the street as they call for passengers, causing a spillover of traffic on Race Course Road, River Road and Landhies Road.

Similar scenes are witnessed on Latema and Accra roads where matatus block other road users as they pick up and drop passengers.

The hawker and boda boda menace has also spread to Kimathi Street, Banda Street, Kenyatta Avenue, Biashara Street and roads near Jamia Mosque — parts of the CBD that were previously no-go zones for them.

Mr David Gachuru, chairman of Nairobi City County Business Association (NCCBA), accuses the county government of laxity, which has affected licensed traders.

“There is a lot of talk but nothing is happening. The occasional harassment of hawkers and boda boda operators is not working; what is needed is regulation,” says Mr Gachuru, adding that city by-laws should be enforced.

Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko says the situation is due to loss of control and a weakness in planning by the county government.

“People are flouting rules because there is no policy and, even if it was there, enforcement would be a problem because the county executive is not in control,” he says.


Senator Sonko, however, says the solution lies in creating a policy to guide the operations of matatus, hawkers and boda bodas without denying people their source of livelihood.

“A city like Bangkok (in Thailand) has a hawker and PSV policy that governs street vending. It has set aside streets within the city centre for hawkers and PSVs to operate from starting 8pm and this works,” he says.

But Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero says the current PSV terminuses were inherited from the defunct city council, adding that he had constituted a Transport and Urban Decongestion Committee to look into the matter.

“Part of the plan is to change the current PSV routes that will do away with all terminuses. Matatus will move from one estate to the other through town without terminating their journeys in the CBD,” he says.

Meanwhile, Muthurwa market — constructed at a cost of Sh750 million and which was supposed to be used as a bus terminus for PSVs operating on Eastlands routes and to host hawkers — remains virtually deserted.

The Ngara bus terminus, which is supposed to serve PSVs on Thika Road and hawkers following the closure of Globe Cinema terminus, is also underutilised.

The Nairobi governor has on several occasions ordered hawkers out of the CBD but the orders are not enforced. Last August, suspended Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau ordered all boda bodas out of the CBD. The order was ignored.