Nairobi buses on strike over police shakedowns

AP News
Posted: Jan 04, 2010 12:31 PM

Thousands of Nairobi residents are being forced to walk long distances to work after the owners of privately owned buses that many laborers depend on began a three-day strike Monday to protest police shakedowns.

Dickson Mbugua, the chairman of an association representing the bus owners and workers, said transport drivers pay police more than $20 million a year in bribes. Mbugua says the shakedowns are crippling their businesses and that no action has been taken by the government despite numerous complaints.

"A police officer from the traffic department goes home every day with no less than 5,000 shillings ($65) in his pockets ... all gained through extortion," Mbugua said.

The average monthly salary for a Nairobi police officer is about $200.

The international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranks Kenya's police force as East Africa's most corrupt institution.

National police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said steps have been taken to apprehend police officers demanding bribes from public transport operators.

"Bus operators and the public in general are assured that every possible effort is being made to ensure that traffic police officers are courteous and honest in their dealings with motorists," Kiraithe said in a statement.

The strike was timed to coincide with the first day of business after the holiday season. Mbugua estimated that 51,000 vehicles participated in the strike.