Recent events in Dandora point to something gravely wrong. The conflict between the two rival and barbaric groups of Mungiki and kamjesh, who have been fighting for control of matatu terminals has already resulted in loss life and property.
Few could imagine that this would be the situation given the Transport Licensing Board (TLB) chairman's tough talk about how he would root out the matatu cartels who appoint themselves to lord it over the legitimate tax-paying matatu business community.
After collecting the levy due from every commercial vehicle, the TLB appears to have quietly retreated and left the public and transport industry to their own devices.
Nothing has been done about the cartels.
Today, warring Mungiki and kamjesh groups kill one another in broad daylight, exposing the public to untold insecurity and suffering. Many of us have therefore come to the conclusion that the TLB is either an accomplice or unable to deal with the menace. It is emerging that TLB has taken sides and supported the Mungiki group
Is the government aware that it is toying with a time bomb?
The peace missions attended by the Nairobi PC, security forces and politicians are self-defeatist. How can they share a table with an illegitimate organisation?
Government and the City Council have failed to execute their duty of running transport on the Dandora and to collect the necessary taxes and levies for national development. Allowing other groups to collect taxes and levies from fellows citizens for personal use contravenes Kenyan laws and is tantamount to the creation of a quasi-government.
It beats the logic of having legally registered associations like the Matatu Welfare Association.
Police in Nyandarua and Laikipia districts yesterday jointly mounted an operation to stop a planned meeting by the Mungiki sect.
Major entry points to Nyahururu town were sealed off by armed policemen while passengers in vehicles heading to the town were flushed out for screening.
Laikipia and Nyandurua acting police chiefs Titus Ndung'u Karuri and Tom Mutisya were heard issuing firm instructions to the officers to disperse any gathering of three or more people and if need be, arrested them.
However, leaders of the Mungiki sect had on Saturday afternoon called off the meeting to avert a clash with security forces.
The sect's national chairman, Mr Maina Njenga, told reporters in Nakuru town that he was disappointed that the Government had outlawed the rally even after the sect members had informed the police about their plan to hold a public meeting.
He said the sect will soon hold a rally in the town "whether the Government like it or not as it has shown that it has no regard for people's right to assemble and exchange ideas."
"The Government has in the past accused us of being an underground movement but when we decided to come out in the open and abide by the law, it has without any reasonable cause denied us our right to hold a meeting."
He threatened that they would revert to their underground operations.
The rally was scheduled to discuss youth leadership, security, governance and justice, he said.
Mr Njenga was flanked by the sect's co-ordinator for Rift Valley province, Mr Kimani Ruo, and some sect members.
Nyahururu become a ghost town as many business premises remained closed while majority of the residents opted to remain in doors for fear of being caught in the anticipated confrontation.
A spot check by the Nation found that even shoe shiners and hand-cart pushers, majority of whom belong to the sect, were missing from the streets.
Some sect members who had arrived in the town on Saturday evening for the meeting disappeared after sensing the heavy police presence.
A lorry load of policemen was dispatched to Kasuku trading centre in Ol Joro Orok division, Nyandarua district after word reached the police that members of the sect had rescheduled the rally to the place but which turned out to be a hoax.
The rally had been publicised through posters in Nairobi, Nakuru, Laikipia and Nyandarua.
The posters had said the rally was convened jointly by Mr Njenga and the national chairman of the Sisi Kwa Sisi political party Mr Rukenya Kabugua.
Similar meetings in the past in the town have ended up in bloodshed aftre confrontation between sect members and the police.
Nyahururu Mayor John Muritu called on the sect and other interest group to follow the right procedures in convening such meetings.
Some things are simply unbelievable.
Take the vicious turf war that has been going on at the Dandora matatu terminus in Nairobi pitting Mungiki against Kamjeshi. The two have become notorious urban gangs who fall somewhere between the underworld and outright criminality. In the latest flare-up, six people have been killed.
The war is about which gang is to be recognised as the official enforcer at the terminus. The interesting bit is that none of these violent busybodies owns a single matatu. What is more, none of the genuine matatu owners has asked any of these bandits for help.
If you have no idea how the matatu business operates, you will wonder how some self-appointed parasite will instal himself the regulator of a matatu route, without invitation from the owners, the crew or the government. You will wonder at the cheek of this fellow who expects to be paid - handsomely - by those owners for "services" that are completely unsolicited and quite probably unnecessary.
It is first and foremost a matter of greed. The matatu business is a multi-billion shilling cash cow. Inevitably, a lot of idlers with no stake in the matatu investment have shown no shame in their rush to milk this cow. And not all of them come in the manner of undisguised outlaws like Mungiki or Kamjeshi.
A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar on public transport management in the city. As seminars go, it was a predictable affair, with the usual earnest presentations coming up but which I knew would end up, as always, gathering dust in some NGO office.
The various so-called stakeholders were all there: The Matatu Welfare Association, the Kenya Bus Services, the Automobile Association, the Association of Kenya Insurers, lobby groups, the lot.
I had not reckoned, however, on finding conspicuously listed as a "stakeholder" one Ibrahim Ndura Waruinge, the "national co-ordinator" of Mungiki. There he was, with his trademark cap, holding forth about the matatu business like one who was born to it.
I vividly recall one question directed at the Mungiki man, wanting to know what interest his group has in the matatu sector and who had mandated them to get embroiled in "security enforcement". He answered, quite cockily, that Mungiki felt it was its duty to man terminuses such as Dandora's, to bring "order" to the route system, or so he put it.
But who exactly was Mungiki acting on behalf of when the owners and the customers (the passengers) had not asked the group for its helping hand, the questioner persisted. Sometimes it is good to act without prompting when it comes to the travelling public's best interests, Mr Waruinge calmly replied, without any hint of irony. I remember asking myself: The public interest, being watched over by Mungiki? I felt like laughing out aloud.
I was not alone in finding it comical that Mungiki followers could be portrayed as some Mother Teresa-style do-gooders. Somebody on the panel tentatively recalled another incident where some hapless ladies had been stripped naked in the city by a group of alleged Mungiki adherents, ostensibly for dressing indecently. Are we seeing Mungiki's compassion extending to policing morals and the proper dress for the ladies, the panellist wanted to know? Rubbish, retorted Mr Waruinge, it was all manufactured by the Special Branch.
I wonder whether Mr Waruinge will say the bloody mess in Dandora is another creation of the Special Branch. If anything, the police and the forces of law enforcement have been incredibly lax in taking up their duty there, while allowing Mungiki and Kamjeshi to masquerade as the agents of law and order.
At a baraza on Thursday, the formidable Nairobi police boss, Mr Geoffrey Mwathe, gave warning that none of the gangs will be tolerated at the terminus any longer. I respect Mr Mwathe as a serious and no-nonsense officer, and I believe somebody like him should be given a free hand to instil discipline in the matatu sector the way he has caused fear in Nairobi's army of robbers and gangsters. Otherwise, his colleagues in the Traffic Department will never do it.
That said, it is not going to be easy removing the leeches who hang onto the matatu business. The police themselves are the most rapacious leeches of all.
Nobody bothers to pretend any more that the endless roadblocks on our highways (on an average day, there are about five along the 36-km stretch from Nairobi to Thika) serve any other purpose than as toll stations. It is more or less an open secret that the bribes collected there are shared with higher-ups in the Police Force, not just amongst the constables and patrolmen manning the roadblocks.
Come to think of it, the police don't mind a whit when the matatu sector persists in its chaos. After all, the interests of the corrupt are best served when there is as little order as possible in the sector. For where there is order, where there is sanity, the daily takings from bribes are going to dwindle.
Then there is the Transport Licensing Board, reconstituted with considerable fanfare in 1999. Naively, some people imagined its re-establishment was for the right reasons, that it would work to bring some sense into the hellish public transport sector. In retrospect, it does not seem like it was meant for this purpose. It has turned out to be just another officially-sanctioned route for fleecing the matatu sector, though only a little less crudely by calling the monies "levies." In short, the TLB has become just another leech.
The mess in the public transport sector is not going to go away until we confront the forces of corruption and greed that envelop this sector from all corners. At the same seminar where Mr Waruinge was the star, an official from the AA gave an illuminating breakdown of a study they had conducted which showed that running a matatu by the book (meaning adhering faithfully to traffic rules, speed limits, passenger loads, inspection timetables, service schedules, prompt insurance payments, and the like) ended up leaving no profit to the operator.
The alarming conclusion: The matatu business breaks even only when rules are broken. Otherwise there won't be anything left for the bribe-seekers, the touts, the enforcers, while still ensuring the poor operator services his loan and takes something home for his family.
Reports from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, say police have launched a murder hunt after four minibus touts were said to have been hacked to death and several others wounded in a turf war.
Kenyan radio said the deaths resulted from clashes between members of a traditional religious sect, Mungiki, and the minibus touts.
One of the touts is said to have died at the minibus terminus in Dandora district and the other three, in the Kasarani area of the city.
Correspondents say the reported deaths are part of a long running dispute between the minibus touts and the Mungiki religious sect over control of the minibus trade in the area.
Mungiki Movement (Kenya) Updates 2001
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