Chaotic scenes were witnessed in Nakuru town Monday after an attempt by striking matatu operators to enter the Central Business District was thwarted by police officers.
Transport was disrupted and business premises closed as the operators protesting their eviction from town centre lit bonfires, barricaded streets with rocks and engaged police in running battles.
The protesters had mobilized boda boda riders and were matching towards the Town center when they were repulsed by police officers who lobbed teargas canisters and pushed them towards Bondeni Landhies Road.
By mid-morning, the unruly mob regrouped and blocked major roads which are vital link for those looking to connect to Nakuru-Kisumu, Nakuru-Eldoret and Nakuru Nyahururu Highways.
As the situation deteriorated, scores of traders at the nearby Wakulima Market scampered for safety and were left counting losses running into thousands of shillings after their wares were trampled on in the ensuing melee.
In March this year, Nakuru Covid-19 Emergency Response Committee chaired by County Commissioner Erastus Mbui Mwenda closed the Wakulima market and relocated bus stops to prevent spread of the virus.
Whereas two weeks ago, Governor Lee Kinyanjui ordered the re-opening of Wakulima Market following a pledge that all traders will abide by guidelines set by health authorities to stop the spread of Covid-19, he announced that matatu operators would not be allowed back into the Central Business District.
As chaos engulfed the town center and its adjoining estates, Mr Kinyanjui issued a statement to newsrooms saying that his administration was sourcing for a contractor to put up a modern transport center equipped with necessary social amenities at a cost of Sh100 million.
He termed the decision by public transport operators to demonstrate as hurried and uncalled for, adding that the County government had good intentions whose full implementation will lead to a modern and vibrant town with a well-organized transport system.
“The funds are available and if need be we will source for more to achieve a better scope. My office is open for dialogue as we call for patience in dealing with such weighty matters,” stated Kinyanjui.
As section of protesters also broke into an anti-Nakuru Governor chant saying “Lee must go” even as some goons took advantage of the situation to loot shops which had remained open.
The riotous mob smashed window panes of a number of business premises and pelted police officers with stones in the process breaking the windshield of a police Land Cruiser.
Several protesters who spoke to KNA maintained the riots will go on until they get audience with the governor.
“We have tried having talks with our governor to no avail, he just sends police to harass us when we protest,” said James Mbugua, a salon owner in the town.
Some residents displayed used spent cartridges claiming the police were using live bullets.
However, Mr. Kinyanjui received rare backing from unlikely quarters after drivers from Smart line Company backed the relocation from CBD.
A driver from the firm who identified himself as Sammy called on the governor to put up temporary social amenities at relocated bus parks as the county worked on the Sh100 million transport center.
“These relocated bus parks are more spacious and can hold more businesses related to transport. We call on the governor to consider looking for ways to improve sanitation, security and accommodation of hawkers,” observed Sammy.
He claimed that a section of politicians was inciting the transport operators into acts of violence and lawlessness. The operator challenged politicians to hold consultations with the governor and come up with a lasting solution.
Lucy Njeri, a businesswoman at the relocated Kingdom Seekers bus park said few operators took advantage of the mayhem to double fairs to areas adjoining Nakuru Town.
By Jane Ngugi/David Mururia