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‘End of the road’ for matatu gangs in new crackdown

By JOHN KAMAU October 18th, 2018 2 min read

For the majority of Kenyans who use matatus, the next few weeks will be difficult: There will be transport disruptions and delays. But at the end of the storm, in the government’s view, the roads will be safer for travellers and the transport sector attractive to investors.

The mother of all crackdowns is being planned which, according to the Interior ministry, will sweep rogue matatus off the roads — permanently — and, with them, the criminal gangs which prey on the sector together with the crooked police officers and politicians who run those gangs.


The transport sector is run by criminal gangs which extort money from matatu owners and call the shots in nearly every aspect of the business. What the Interior ministry is promising is “a painful and sustained” operation, to be launched within two weeks, which will clean out the multi-billion-shilling cartel network and open up the sector to ordinary investors who would otherwise not go near it.

The operation could herald the return of an organised transport system in Nairobi, similar to one run by the Kenya Bus Service in the 1970s and 1980s — before it was commercially pushed out by the matatus. Many investors shy away from putting their money into an industry under the control of vicious gangs.


Also targeted by a multi-agency team, set to be unveiled by next week, are rogue police officers and stage cartels who make a living by collecting bribes and protection fees — and who have turned the multi-billion-shilling transport sector into a playground of scoundrels, who include Mungiki-like outfits — and the lifeline of extortionists.

For the better part of yesterday, senior government officials held final meetings at the National Transport and Safety Authority offices putting the last nuts and bolts on the operation that has brought in the National Intelligence Service (NIS), to help them with the intelligence on the cartel networks that make millions of shillings a day through the mayhem and suffering of passengers and vehicle owners.

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