Rift Valley Matatu operators cry foul as gangs infiltrate sector, extort them

Matatu operators wait for customers at Kinangop bus stage in Naivasha. Rift Valley Matatu operators have decried infiltration of the sector by organised criminal gangs costing them millions of shillings. [File, Standard]

Matatu owners within Rift Valley Region have raised a red flag over infiltration of organised criminal gangs in management of bus termini.

According to the operators, the gangs which have taken control of a majority of the termini have led to the operators in the region losing over Sh50 million monthly.

Speaking during a joint meeting between the matatu operators and the National Police Service, Central Rift Matatu Owners Association Chairman David Kuria pointed out that the gangs have taken over the termini which are owned by the county government.

“In the region, we are losing up to Sh50 million every month to these organised gangs. The gangs are charging the operators certain fees to be allowed to operate in the termini despite them being public spaces,” said Kuria.

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According to the operators, the gang are largely to blame for the hike in bus fares during the peak seasons.

“The cartels have been directing drivers to hike fares, especially during holidays. They later recover the money by extortion from the drivers per trip made or risk being expelled. This is clearly robbing the travellers,” said Kuria.

The operators called on the Ministry of Interior Security to intervene and dismantle the gangs. They said this will not only to provide a conducive business environment for the operators but also save Kenyans using public transport.

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“Many people are not willing to speak about the cartels for fear of consequences that may follow. There is a need for the formation of a special unit that can secretly investigate the matter,” he said.

In Nakuru town, for instance, the operators revealed that in some of the termini which have mushroomed across the town, some of the gangs charge up to Sh50,000 per matatu.

Nakuru East Deputy Sub County Police Commander Daniel Kitavi assured the operators that a major crackdown on all organised criminal gangs was being conducted and will be extended to the termini.

“We are currently focusing on safety within the residential estates where we have managed to bring down most criminal gangs. Criminals are known to retreat to the bus stops after committing crimes and we shall be after them to all locations,” said Kitavi.

The commander added that with the merger of the Administration Police and the Kenya Police, more officers will be deployed in the town to smoke out the criminals.

A report from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) revealed that some of the criminal gangs were arising from former matatu Sacco employees fired for indiscipline.

The officer in Charge of traffic Christina Orina added that the gangs were arising from laxity among the matatu owners who employ drivers and conductors without verifying their criminal record.

“All employees should be vetted before they can be hired. They should also be issued with tags for easier identification. This shall deal a blow to the criminals if they present themselves demanding for money,” said Orina.

She added that in their recent crackdown they managed to catch up with drivers and conductors who were operating with forged documents including driving licenses and certificates of good conduct.

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Matatu ownersRift Valley RegionDavid KuriaCriminal gangs