By EUNICE KILONZO
Long-distance trucks will Monday block major roads in the country as part of a “peaceful demonstration” to decry insecurity and harassment on the highways.
The Mombasa-Nairobi highway will be the most affected, according to the head of the Kenyan Truck Drivers Group, Mr Hassan Kabeberi Abdallah, and is asking Kenyans to “use alternative routes.”
“We will block that road at Malili Town around Konza City.
“Our other members will also block the Naivasha-Nakuru highway at Kikopey in Gilgil; the Eldoret-Malaba highway at Jua Kali in Eldoret; and the Busia-Kisumu highway at Sega,” he told the Daily Nation on Sunday.
The Kenyan Truck Drivers Group says nearly 3,000 trucks will be involved in the strike that is scheduled to begin today at 6am until their demands are addressed.
They are asking the government to provide police escort to all trucks driving into South Sudan which they say is a “hotspot” of attacks and discrimination of Kenyan drivers and vehicles.
LOST 37 TRUCK DRIVERS IN S. SUDAN
“We have lost 37 drivers since January 2016 while on duty in South Sudan with the recent case a few weeks back when one of our drivers was killed after being shot in the head.
“We are asking the Kenyan Ambassador in South Sudan be replaced because he is not helping us while there,” said Mr Abdallah.
The drivers are also calling on the government to weed out the “road-block taxes” where each truck has to pay Sh50 shillings on each mounted road block, accounting to about Sh4,000 on a single trip as bribes, according to Mr Abdallah.
The truckers say they part with the money because they “have no choice”.
“In addition, we know that the weighbridges in Mariakani, Mlolongo, and Webuye have been tampered with to show that we are carrying a bigger cargo than is actually the case and the police officers impose fines and ask us for bribes,” added Mr Abdallah, who has been plying the Kenya-Uganda highway for 10 years.
Female drivers, he added, have to deal with sexual harassment while at work.
The standoff will not only affect travellers but also the recipients of the cargo — including petroleum, vehicles and other items — the trucks are meant to deliver across the Kenyan borders.
Mr Anthony Thiong’o, a truck driver with 15 years experience, said: “The owners of the trucks are supporting the drivers’ strike, therefore, those waiting for their shipment will have to wait or find other means of transportation but hopefully not through the roads because we will not budge.”
He said some roads were in poor condition, making their work more difficult and risky especially those driving along the Garissa-Mandera route as well as in Turkana where banditry is rife.
The group, through a letter to the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services on May 22, gave a 14-day strike notice, stating: “We are therefore calling for a peaceful demonstration from all Kenyan truck drivers on the Kenyan roads … and to find a peaceful decision … on the way forward with South Sudan and Kenyan police on our highway.”
The drivers say they have informed the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the police of the strike, but have not received word on their demands.