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Nairobi’s downtown is a recipe for disaster

An adage goes round downtown Nairobi that if a fire breaks out in the area during daytime, nothing would be salvaged.

Traders and matatu crews who do business in the densely populated Nyamakima assertively say no fire brigade or other emergency vehicle would be able to access the place until late night.

The reason? All roads in this business district, east of Tom Mboya Street, have been taken over by public service vehicles, which have either turned them into pick-up or drop-off points or parking lots.

A road like Mwimbi that matatus from Nyahururu, Nakuru and Narok use to reach Cross Road, their pick-off point, is impenetrable.

Not even a motorcycle can use the road, which connects Kirinyaga Road with Cross Road and Duruma Road.

Matatu operators blame food stores at the intersection of Cross Road and Duruma Road for the congestion.


“The trucks that bring the cereals obstruct us for hours while they wait to be offloaded,” says a matatu driver, who added that pull-carts worsen the situation.

It is at the food stores, that extend to Duruma Road, where people fear a fire would cause untold destruction.

This place was initially designated for traders coming to buy cereals for resale at the nearby Kariokor, Wakulima and Muthurwa markets before the then City Council of Nairobi allocated it to matatu saccos.

Who allocates these pick-up and drop-off points? The buck stops with City Hall! For the better part of this year, the Nairobi County Government has been on a campaign to decongest the city.

This is part of recommendations of the Transport and Urban Decongestion Committee set up by Governor Evans Kidero and chaired by Prof Marion Mutugi.

Transport Executive Mohamed Abdullahi said construction of a new bus terminus in Murang’a Road, the first phase in decongesting the CDB, would be complete in the next two months.

“Buses from Thika and Kiambu will not enter the CBD once the terminus is complete,” Mr Abdullahi said.

Other parts of Nairobi’s downtown are no better.


As Motorist Association of Kenya Chairman Peter Murima observes, disorderliness has replaced sanity in the eastern part of the city.

“A street like Tom Mboya has several recently created stages and matatu drivers drop off passengers and park in the same street waiting to pick up others. This never used to happen,” Mr Murima says.

“Parking a vehicle on a road is an offence,” he says and wonders why this is happening right in front of law enforcement officers.

Nairobi traffic police boss Edward Mwamburi sought to exonerate his officers, arguing that designating areas where buses should pick up passengers is the role of City Hall.

Buses from upcountry have created their own illegal terminuses at Landhies Road, Ronald Ngala Street, a section of Haille Selassie Avenue and Race Course Road where chaos reigns during the rush hour.


Matatu Welfare Association chairman Dixon Mbugua believes the congestion can mainly be attributed to the emergence of several new matatu saccos and companies.

Mr Mbugua says in 2011, saccos were given full mandate by the government to regulate the sector and instill discipline among the crew.

It was also a rule that only three saccos should operate on a route.

Saccos are now splitting and the splinter groups are being registered — some of them led by people of questionable character, according to the chairman.

NTSA boss Francis Meja admitted registering new saccos but disagreed this was the cause of the disorder in the sector.