Thousands of Nairobi residents braved early morning rains to walk to work, and to school, as a majority of public service vehicle operators kept off the roads on day one of a three-day strike.
They left their homes early and scrambled to board buses and the handful of matatus [14-seater minibuses] in operation on the day most offices were reopening for the New Year, and students reporting back to school. Officials of the Drivers and Conductors Association said the first day of the strike was a success and said the industrial action over alleged harassment by the police would go on.
Administration Police were deployed at bus stops as early as 5am to prevent striking matatu crews from harassing those who had chosen to operate normally. No incidents of violence had been reported.
Fares had gone up by up to double in most routes where few buses operated.
A woman at Ngara said she left her home in Dandora Phase Six at 4.30am to start the long trek to Nairobi, and arrived at her workplace two hours later.Reports from other parts of the country painted a similar picture, with long-distance travelers scrambling for the few operators who had not joined the strike call.
Primary schools in Nairobi were largely unaffected by the strike as most are located within walking distance of their students’ homes while most of the private ones organize transport for their learners.
Secondary school students are bound to feel the effects of the strike as they report for the new term starting Tuesday, and a good number have to travel long distances to their learning institutions.
On Sunday, officials of the crews’ union and the Matatu Welfare Association said they regret taking the action but claimed it was necessitated by increased extortion by police.
“Our intention is not to punish anybody. We also have children who are going to school, but it is unfortunate that our tools of trade and offices are the vehicles and we will be leaving our workplaces due to extortion,” Mr Mbugua said.