Hard times for youths as Kenya's tough traffic rules render some 'jobless'

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-15 21:49:04|Editor: xuxin
Video PlayerClose

NAIROBI, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- Until Monday, Fred Muriungu would work as a tout at a terminus on the East of Nairobi, Kenya's capital.

His work involved calling out for passengers to get into public buses or sometimes sit in an empty vehicle with three or two other colleagues to lure commuters inside.

And for these work, he would earn between 20 shillings (0.18 U.S. dollars) and 4.8 dollars per vehicle depending on the fare charged. In a good day, Muriungu would go home with up to 10 dollars.

However, the job he loved and had done for two years is now gone, following the implementation of tough traffic rules by the government.

Police ordered the operators of public buses, fondly known as matatus, to follow the rules or keep their vehicles off the road. A crackdown was launched on Monday.

Among the things the traffic laws outlaw is touting, the job Muriungu and hundreds of other youths have been doing.

The jobs are gone, and anyone found touting risks a fine not exceeding 29 dollars as stipulated by the Traffic Act.

The youths would call for passengers, sit in empty vehicles to "hoodwink" commuters that the vehicle had people, help load luggage on vehicles or relieve matatu drivers when they went for lunch.

In the capital Nairobi, each terminus in the residential areas was manned by at least five youths.

Others were stationed along terminus on major roads, calling out for passengers and thereafter demanding money from matatu operators.

The situation was replicated in all town centers across the east African nation, therefore, keeping hundreds employed.

"We are now jobless. I am not sure if the government wants us to become thieves or to die of hunger because it has taken our jobs away," said Moses Kitula, a tout in Kayole.

Kitula lamented that he had not earned any income since Monday for fear of arrest by the police.

"Many of us have kept off bus stations. Two of our colleagues were arrested on Tuesday for touting and it took time to convince police to release them," he said.

Kitula, who holds a diploma in social work, said he joined the work after failing to get a job in his career field.

"I looked for a job for two years in vain and had no option but to do this work, from which I have been earning a living for the last four years," said Kitula, who is married, and has a two-year old child.

Interestingly, he sees himself as manager of the public buses route, and not a tout. "The government calls our job touting but we are actually route managers. Our work is to help conductors set fares depending on demand for services and ensure vehicles that don't ply that route don't carry passengers," he said.

However, even as the youths complain, some matatu operators are happy with the development noting some of the youths were extorting them or harassing passengers.

"You could not carry passengers peacefully unless you pay them. While they are jobless, the law is good and had brought order at bus termini," said Bernard Ndung'u, a matatu conductor in Nairobi.

Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai has praised the new rules noting a majority of the youths extort operators.

The World Bank puts Kenya's unemployment rate at 40 percent, with many new jobs being created annually in informal sector like matatu.

According to the Economic Survey 2018, some 897,000 new jobs were created in 2017, a 7.6 per cent increase from 2016.

Ernest Manuyo, a business management lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, noted the traffic rules worsen unemployment crisis because the youths have lost sources of income.

"But this gives the country chance to address the job crisis. President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four Agenda on manufacturing we hope would help address this problem," he said.