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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 January, 2004, 13:56 GMT
Kenya transport crackdown begins
Alice Muthengi
BBC, Nairobi

Kenyan matatu (minibus) operators are rushing to beat a government deadline to fit safety equipment on their vehicles.

The government published a law last year requiring all public service vehicles to fit in safety belts and speed governors as a measure to curb increasing road accidents.

There are fears of a transport crisis when the law is enforced
But the chairman of the Matatu operators Association Simon Kimutai says only 10% of the vehicles have complied with the new rules.

This week the High Court in Nairobi rejected an appeal by the operators to extend the 31January deadline.

Mr Kimutai told the BBC it costs about $800 to install the speed governors and seat belts and many operators cannot afford it.

Deadline pressure

There are fears that Kenya's public transport system is headed for a crisis when the new laws become effective next week.

"I brought my matatus, and I have been here for three days and the work is not over, it looks like I will still be here tomorrow," said mechanic Joseph Karanja.

Mr Karanja said due to the deadline pressure he will fit the safety belts first and the speed governors at a later date.

Traders for their part are cashing in on the rush.

Spectacular parade

''We are now making a lot of profits, many of matatus owners are coming to ask for safety belts and yellow paint.'' said Catherine Njoki, a dealer in Nairobi.

With this last-minute rush to beat the government deadline few matatus are on business and the commuters are bearing the brunt.

''We are not getting transport as quickly as we normally do and we get late for work - I am sure it will even be worse when the crackdown begins',' said one commuter, Patrick.

Their colourful image will now cease to exist under the new law
The new law requires the matatus to sport one colour and have a yellow strip.

This will in effect bring an end to the spectacular colour parade that has long been associated with the public service vehicles.

In addition matatu drivers and conductors will have to wear uniforms and badges.

Transport and Communication Minister John Michuki insists the new law must be enforced .

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