Why rusty Kanjo pickups won't stop roaming the city

By - Apr 5th 2023

In the run-up to the August general elections last year, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja did not mince his words while describing the sorry state of vehicles used during arrests of city offenders.

“The people you are fighting and chasing are your customers. We must stop bundling people into that tetanus-filled contraptions and rust-filled pickups, I will throw them out,” Sakaja said.

He added: “That is not how we serve people; we are still using colonial rules that are still in play in the city like loitering with intent.”

Sakaja said that if elected, he will ensure city residents are treated with dignity by the County enforcement officers, commonly known as Kanjo.

Several months on, some city residents have been raising concerns over the safety and status of the vehicles used to ferry offenders arrested by enforcement officers during swoops that target hawkers.

Some traders and hawkers have been arrested and bundled into vehicles for selling their wares in restricted areas, complaining that the vehicles are old and not safe.

Apart from the safety, they also claim the vans are used to collect bribes thus challenging the city boss to act fast as he promised during campaigns.

“Those vehicles are scary to us. If you find yourself inside one, you can hardly breathe as they ooze bad smell because they have been neglected,” Lydia Nyambura, one of the hawkers said.

The vans are also used to ferry street children after swoops and sometimes, revelers arrested drinking past recommended hours are also clients of the rusty cages.

More worrying is how the vehicles are locked from the outside using huge padlocks whenever they are filled up by the offenders, usually after making several rounds on the streets.

“Not long ago, one of the vehicles nearly rolled down a sloppy area within Kirinyaga Road while it was locked from the outside.  It was full of hawkers but they locked it so that no one could escape,” Jeff Kangai, a hawker along Taveta Lane narrated.

In some instances, several County askaris hang on the doors of the vans making it hard for those arrested to breathe. The situation gets worse for mothers who are arrested with young children. And now the Kanjo pickups are set to increase the rounds in the CBD following the ongoing plans to allow hawkers to operate along some lanes in the city centre. Already, the county has demarcated some lanes with clear names of the hawkers who will occupy the spaces along Kimathi Street, Moi Avenue, and other backstreet areas.

City County Transport Chief Officer Boniface Nyamu told The Nairobian it is one of Governor Sakaja’s wishes to dispose of the rusty vans as soon as possible.

“The Governor really wants to do away with them. In fact, it was supposed to happen after elections but by that time the County Assembly had passed a budget for the year 2022/23,” Nyamu shared.

County budget

He added: “But from July we will procure several decent vehicles which will also be well branded. The number of vehicles will depend on the budget that we will get.”

The defunct Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) had promised to acquire 250 vehicles to replace rickety county pickups but the pledge was not achieved.

The vehicles were supposed to help in the mobility of the enforcement officers and ensure quality service delivery but it remained a promise until NMS completed its tenure after the elections.

County Assembly Chairman Musango Maithya while acknowledging the pathetic state of the vans, said they are managed under the office of the governor including fueling them. Apart from its intended functions, the vans roam around the city streets after the swoops before stopping far away from the CBD where money exchange hands for one to be released.


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