By Vincent Achuka, Simon Ciuri
Chaos marked the first day of a containment order banning the movement of people in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan as those unable to gain access to the city resorted to circumventing the roadblocks, putting a serious dent on the move’s objective.
With roadblocks placed at all the major entries into the city, some people opted to trek through bushes or use other routes and then rejoin the roads a few kilometres away. Public service vehicles, which found themselves disadvantaged as they could not go past the barriers, easily adopted by creating makeshift bus stops.
There was also the question on where the actual borders of the Nairobi Metropolitan area are located. Those affected told the Nation they were being unfairly inconvenienced as they could not get to work despite living within the Nairobi Metropolitan area.
Pressure of finding housing within the city has over the years forced residents to rent or construct their own houses in satellite towns then commute to work every day.
Created in 2008, the Nairobi Metropolitan area covers 32,000 square kilometres including Kiambu, Limuru, Mavoko, Ruiru, Tala, Kajiado and Thika towns.
In guidelines issued by the Interior ministry, roadblocks are currently in place at Kamulu on Kangundo road, Small World and Katani (Mombasa road), Isinya (Nairobi-Namanga road), Kiserian and Ngong.
Other roadblocks are at Landless (Thika-Garissa highway), Blue Post Hotel (Thika Road), Uplands, Mutarakwa and Tinganga in Kiambu County. All vehicles carrying cargo have been exempted from the containment order but shall not travel at night unless they are transporting food.
“In the case of a cargo-loaded vehicle, the cargo is visible, or the driver bears such documentation of proof of loaded cargo. Police must check and see loaded cargo,” said the Interior ministry.
“The vehicle should have no more than four persons on board. That is the driver and a maximum of three designated assistants. Additionally, medical personnel shall check the temperatures of the occupants of the vehicle,” said the ministry.
However, some of the affected people resorted to circumventing the erected roadblocks, resulting in daylong cat and mouse game with the police.
At Kamulu on Tuesday, those unable to cross the roadblock alighted from vehicles and crossed the Athi River, which divides Nairobi and Machakos. With the rains and the river unable to stop them, those determined to make it to the city then walked to Kamulu town and boarded matatus to Nairobi.
“The government allowed this thing (the coronavirus) to come into the country when they let planes to continue landing when they knew the whole world is in trouble and now they want to punish us,” said Mr Michael Mutisya, a resident of Joska town on the boundary between Nairobi and Machakos counties along Kangundo road.
“Whether they like it or not, we will make it to work. If I am fired, will the government give me a job?” he asked.
In Thika, police forced all public transport to drop passengers at Del Monte Depot that borders Kiambu and Murang’a counties along the busy Nairobi-Nyeri highway near Chania River.
The roadblock was manned by police from Makuyu Police Station but public transport from Thika town to Nairobi was uninterrupted.
Ms Jemmimah Kanyi, 75, told the Nation they were forced to alight at Del Monte Depot that is a few metres from Chania River as bodaboda riders made a killing ferrying passengers to Thika town before police intervened and dispersed them. “I had travelled from Kandara, Murang’a County, using a matatu and we were forced by police to alight at Del Monte, which is not far from Chania River,” said Ms Kanyi.
“I paid Sh200 to access Thika town to seek medication since I am unwell. Police told us that President Uhuru Kenyatta said there should be no inter-county movement because of a certain disease that is killing people,” she added.
Private motorists were not spared either by police; they had to show the course of their travel and why it was necessary. A good number were barred from accessing Thika town as police feared they were en route to Nairobi.
Riot police comprising both regular police and General Service Unit officers kept vigil, monitoring and approving who accesses Thika town and for what reason.
So strict was the exercise that even a Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldier who claimed he was reporting back to work from official leave had to convince the police why it was necessary for him to report back to work.
“I had travelled from Embu hoping to get to Nairobi after arriving here at the roadblock at around 9am. It has taken me nearly five hours to convince police that I am reporting back to work since the matatu I was travelling in was barred from proceeding to either Thika town or Nairobi,” said the KDF soldier who sought anonymity.
He was later allowed to proceed to Nairobi after calling his seniors.
Mr Simon Maina, a trader who supplies pineapples to Embu County from Gatundu North, was also affected by the ban. “The government never banned the movement of cargo in affected counties. Why are police barring us from gaining entry to Thika road since we are heading back home after ferrying goods,” he told police angrily.
Ms Charity Mwaura, who looked frail, told the Nation her biggest worry is how to get home. She had used a motorbike in the morning to access Thika town where she had gone for a medical check-up after she was discharged from the hospital last week.
“I am exhausted after walking from Thika town to where the roadblock is. As you can see, I am unwell. I don’t know how I will get home,” she said.