Drivers, passengers on Lamu-Garsen road decry police harassment

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Lamu, KENYA: Drivers and passengers plying the Lamu-Mombasa road are accusing police and other security agencies manning the various roadblocks of harassment and favoritism.

They say the security officers have been allowing shuttles to go through the roadblocks without undergoing the required security checks while buses are subjected to long grueling hours of waiting as they go through the checks.

All public transport vehicles plying the road are required to travel in one convoy under police protection.

The vehicles however have to go through numerous security checks at various roadblocks erected on the road where passengers have to alight and get screened together with all their luggage.

The directive was issued on December 21, 2014 as a means of containing the security situation on the Lamu-Garsen road following numerous al Shabaab attacks on transport and security vehicles that left hordes of civilians and security officers dead.

Normally, the convoy of buses stops for several hours per each roadblock to enable for the security checks to be conducted.

Drivers and passengers are however accusing the security officers of open bias.

They say shuttles operating on the route never undergo any checks and are never held up in convoys since they are always allowed to travel alone while buses have to stick to the strict and time-consuming convoys.

On Saturday for instance, drivers and conductors of buses plying the route caused a ruckus at one of the roadblocks at Maisha Masha area in Witu as they protested against the unfair treatment, a situation that resulted in the arrest of some.

Speaking on Tuesday, the operators said police had been frustrating them during the checks which take more than an hour hence making them arrive late at their destinations.

Said Swaleh, a driver on the route wondered why shuttles are never stopped or are they forced to stick to police convoys while they go through ‘hell’.

“It’s unfair that the directive to travel under convoys only applies to bus drivers alone.They force us to wait for over an hour in the name of checks.Sometimes people have to alight with their luggage and them board again.That process is time-consuming and irritating.Whats so special about shuttles because as far as I know, it applies to them too.Does it mean we are the only ones capable of transporting terrorists as they think.” said Swaleh.

Another driver Salim Hassan appealed to the EACC to come down and conduct a sting operation on the various roadblocks and the concerned officers.

“Its very probable that these shuttles bribe these officers for such treatment which is very unfair.We are subjected to such treatment because bus companies don’t give bribes.These officers should be probed and action is taken,” said Hassan.

They say the situation has made many people shun bus transport, a situation that’s threatening to drive them out of business.

“People are now fleeing to shuttles.We rarely have passengers these days but what the police are doing to us is making the situation worse.There is a need for the law to apply equally,” said Basheikh Saleh.

In June 2017, the national government ordered a crackdown on all passenger vehicles traveling without a police escort.

Several buses and drivers were arrested and charged.

Shuttle operators however continue to openly flout the directive and have been operating without police escort.

Police said the move is dangerous on the highly volatile route.

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