Sunday, May 26, 2024

Exited Macharia, Entered Murkomen: Unbothered public transport ministers

Co-Op post

Ten people die in road accident! 4 people killed in another road accident! 6 people die in road accident involving lorry and probox… These types of headlines have become a daily media publication.

Every single day, a number of Kenyans lose their lives in road accidents. Nearly 1,200 Kenyans have lost their lives in road accidents over the last 14 weeks. This means that around 11 Kenyans have been losing their lives every day over this period.

But apart from the sympathies of Kenyans mourning their countrymen and the highlights in the media, you would hardly know that the public transportation sector is facing a safety crisis. In fact, if you just landed in Kenya, you would be forgiven to conclude that there is no ministry in charge of public transportation.

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But there is a cabinet secretary in charge of this docket, Mr. Kipchumba Murkomen. However, Murkomen appears to be following in the footsteps of his predecessor James Macharia who was oftentimes criticized for appearing unconcerned and disinterested in the public transport sector during the previous government.

Macharia’s critics saw him as being more interested in mega projects such as the Nairobi Expressway over the public transportation area involving matatus. This, critics claimed, was one of the reasons he never bothered to push for the stricter implementation of the famous Michuki rules that had restored sanity in the public transport sector.

The current Cabinet Secretary for Transport Kipchumba Murkomen is being criticized for following the same script. Despite rising incidents of road accidents, Mr. Murkomen has not been seen as quick to have traffic rules and road usage regulations enforced.

The public transport sector has since the era of the late John Michuki manifested itself as the most neglected with costly consequences in loss of lives.

Shockingly, it is not that Kenya has a shortage of traffic officers or national transport and safety authorities. In fact, if you travel from Nairobi to Nakuru using a matatu, you will be stopped multiple times by traffic officers. These stops will not be for safety and compliance checks; they will bribe collection ‘toll’ points for traffic officers.

So blatant is this practice that drivers who recently spoke with Bizna Kenya revealed that many traffic cops have hiked the cost of bribes from Sh. 50 to Sh. 100 citing high cost of living.

“If you don’t pay, you are marked and victimized endlessly. You will be cited and harassed and sued for traffic violations you never committee. It’s just easier to pay and get it away with,” one driver who spoke with Bizna Kenya said.

Looking at the coming months, the odds that one might die in a road accident are increasing. For instance data from the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) indicates that between January 1, 2024 and April 1, 2024, 7,198 Kenyans were involved in road accidents.

This marked an increase of 1,908 people who were involved in road accidents compared to last year. The same data shows that 3,316 people were seriously injured and 2,693 people suffered from minor injuries.

How far will these numbers go? How many more people will families have to bury because of preventable road accidents? How many more livelihoods will have to be lost as breadwinners are permanently put on wheelchairs and hospital beds because of preventable road accidents?

The answer to these questions is dependent on whether the Ministry of Transport and the people entrusted to lead it will wake up from their deep slumber. It also lies on whether Kenyan road users are ready for a mentality shift in the way they use public roads.

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