Monday, June 17, 2013

2012: The Year in Matatus

The former Editor of 'Matatu Today' magazine back at some of the pivotal moments in the public transport industry in 2012

Jan: The bulk of the work on the Sh31 billion Thika Superhighway is complete, transforming the literal and economic landscape around it. While comments on the 3-year mega project are mainly positive, there is concern about the high rate of accidents on the new road.

Jan 29: The Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) calls on the government to reconsider the controversial 14 seater phase-out policy. The policy recommends buses over smaller, more popular, Nissans as a way of easing road congestion and other complications.

Feb: Announcement that Matatu Express - a documentary film about the everyday struggles of young people living in a slum in Nairobi - will be shown in Ontario, Canada, at the Gayety Theater 0n Thursday, March 22.

Mar 16: A minibus conductor is stabbed to death during a carjacking incident along Jogoo Road, Nairobi.

Apr: Famed cartoonist Frank Odoi, dies aged 64 when the matatu he is travelling in overturns. He was the author of the Driving Me Crazy comic strip, among many other works.

May: Ministry of Roads is voted the most improved among Government ministries in service delivery over the previous year (Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission survey).

May: Matatu strike brings city to a grinding halt.

Jul 4: The Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) calls for further consultation on the proposed Traffic Amendment Bill.  Association chairman Dickson Mbugua calls for revisions before the President signs the draconian Bill into law.

Jul 29: Over 50 enraged matatu operators from route 23 (Westlands) block sections of University Way and Harry Thuku Road  with their vehicles, protesting police harassment and demanding the release of their four colleagues who had been arrested shortly before.

Jul 5: Hundreds of passengers  from Thika town and its environs are left stranded when over 100 matatu owners go on strike, led by their chairman Michael Kariuki, protesting ‘invasion’ by PSV vehicles from other areas.

Aug: Transport index goes down by 0.82 per cent between July 2012 and August 2012 mainly due to falls in matatu, bus and taxi fares that reflect the continued trend in reductions of petrol and diesel prices, according to figures released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

Oct 2: Matatu Today magazine is re-introduced to the market and gets mainly positive reviews by PSV industry stakeholders.

Oct 19: Pollster Ipsos Synovate release a road safety report indicating that a ‘Majority of Kenyans do not take personal responsibility for road safety.’

Oct 30: All matatu owners and drivers are asked to take their PSVs for a free inspection clinic to last until the end of November. Traffic Commandant Ben Kibue assures Matatu operators that they will not be harassed.

Oct: Police in Nyandarua issue a warning to gangs that have been harassing matatu operators in the area, extorting money at the PSV terminals.

Nov 7: H.E. Hon. Mwai Kibaki launches the construction of the 122km Turbi-Moyale road. The section of the road to be upgraded to bitumen standard is part of the 500 km Isiolo-Moyale Highway.

Nov: Number of traffic-related deaths tops 2,500 for the year so far (Traffic Police report)

Nov 9: H.E. Hon. Mwai Kibaki commissions Thika Superhighway, officially opening it up for business. Present on this auspicious occasion is the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, He Liu Guangyuan; Kenya Highways Authority director-general, Meshack Kidenda, and the Minister for Roads, Franklin Bett. The road is part of the trans-Africa Highway running from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt.

Nov 18: 10 people are killed and 25 seriously injured when an explosive goes off inside a matatu mini-bus in Eastleigh township, Nairobi. The explosion is believed to be caused by a grenade or improvised explosive device (IED).

Nov 24 - 25: Paul Karanja, chairman of a matatu sacco in Nanyuki, is shot and wounded by unknown assailants.

Nov 29:  A massive matatu strike cripples public transport countrywide as matatu industry stakeholders protest the signing of the punitive Traffic Amendment Bill into law.  In Nairobi, buses belonging to City Hoppa, KBS and Double M are temporarily forced to stay off the road by the protesters. Public reaction is mixed but with the majority siding with the law that calls for alarmingly high penalties for traffic offences such as drunken driving and overlapping.

Nov 30: Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) chairman, Dickson Mbugua, calls off matatu strike after holding talks with Transport PS, Cyrus Njiru, on a possible review of contentious new traffic laws. Matatu Owners Association (MOA) chairman, Simon Kimutai, also calls on matatu operators to return to work. MOA had earlier condemned the Traffic Law Amendment Act 2012, saying it was specifically targeted at matatu operators.

Dec 18: Court finds 6 Administration Policemen accused of killing 7 taxi operators in Kawangware on March 2010 guilty.

Dec 18: A Kameme FM/K24 correspondent and a QTV/MTV journalist are attacked by touts and taxi operators in Meru while trying to cover flouting of traffic rules.

Dec 18: Speaking in Thika, Deputy Traffic Commandant, Samuel Kimaru, urges road users to exercise caution the festive season. At the same venue, Ministry of Health decries high number of accidents involving boda bodas.

Dec: Massive reshuffle in police force as numerous senior traffic commanders in Nairobi are redeployed.

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