Uproar as Criminal Gang Imposes Tax on Road Users
Matatu operators plying the Kaharate-Kangare road in Kigumo Sub-county in Murang’a have found themselves subject of an extortion scheme from a vicious criminal gang that has setup toll stations along the 41-kilometer road.
On Monday, October 21, The Standard reported that the gang allegedly comprised of youths, mints at least Ksh1 million from the matatus operating along that road every month.
According to The Standard, approximately 170 matatus ply the route and each of them is expected to pay at least Ksh200 as security fee meant to fend off competing Saccos on a daily basis.
Kigumo Touts Welfare group reported that new matatus parted with Ksh175,000 to operate in the route whereas newcomer drivers and touts were expected to part with Ksh5,000 and Ksh2,500 respectively to enable them to ply the route.
According to the Kigumo Commuters Association (KCA) secretary Elias Mwangi, the Ksh200 fee charged by the gang was meant to lock out competitors from the route.
“The money is meant to pay the youths to keep off business competition from other matatu Saccos,” Mwangi claimed.
He reiterated that the presence of the gang has adversely affected the growth of the area as investors steered clear from the region due to growing insecurity.
The commuters association official accused police of laxity for failing to take action amid several complaints by residents and matatu operators.
"Our security officers have this information yet they are not concerned,” Mwangi added.
Touts and matatu drivers held demonstrations on Sunday, October 20, to persuade the government to take swift action.
Steve Irungu, who heads Kigumo Touts Welfare Group expressed their fear of the gang’s influence.
He revealed that anyone who refused to part with the protection money would be abducted and assaulted, further noting that the kidnappings would lead to killings if the gang was not paid.
According to The Standard, Murang’a County Commissioner Mohammed Barre conceded that there was a public outcry against the gang and that a team was being assembled to launch a crackdown.
The commissioner called on all matatus with licenses to operate on the route and aid with the operation in bringing down the crew.
On August 4, The Standard reported a similar extortion scheme that involved Rift Valley matatu Saccos and criminal gangs controlling a number of major bus termini.
In a joint meeting with the National Police Service, Central Rift Matatu Owners Association chairman David Kuria revealed that the gangs had taken control of a majority of the termini subjecting the matatu operators to over Ksh50 million in monthly losses.
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