(eTN) – A massive traffic jam along the main highway to Mombasa was blocked yesterday for over 8 hours by striking truck drivers, with cars on both sides of the Mariakani weight bridge backed up for over 20 kilometers.
As a result, safari vehicles were stranded for the duration, in the absence of any bypass or detour possible, leaving tourists infuriated by the delays getting them to the game parks, while those returning from safari to their respective beach resorts were also victims of the strike.
According to a Mombasa-based source, the truck drivers were striking over allegations of massive corruption at the weight station, where, allegedly, vehicles with “arrangements” are allowed to pass, while the rest are subjected to harassment, intimidation, and worse, or so it has been alleged.
These allegations are not new and weigh bridges have long been identified as money extraction machines for corrupt police officers, although no amount of government action, transfers of personnel, or arrests have been able to change that.
Said a regular source from the Kenyan coast in response to a mailed inquiry: “This is the low season, and we need every tourist we can get. Now those who came and went on safari yesterday, were messed up by these issues which have been festering for a while. We need weigh bridges to protect our roads from the massive overloading which has in the past destroyed even new roads very quickly. But these stations need to be professionally managed and effectively supervised to prevent corruption.
“This was not a good day for tourism, and the affected clients reached their destinations very, very late. Traffic in and out of Mombasa can be bad, and we demand that the highway must be expanded, the bypass to the south coast constructed, and a second bridge built over Tudor creek to the northern mainland.
“There are reasons we have been demanding this for many years, and the new government must act if they are true to their word to boost tourism. Without infrastructure, tourism cannot prosper, and we in Mombasa demand equal rights to Nairobi where so many new highway and bypass projects are underway. This is not right.”
Sometime last year, traffic was stuck in and out of Mombasa for nearly a day, when road works, combined with undisciplined driving by trucks, caused a major traffic jam. The tourism industry also has for long been asking for a bypass from the international airport in Mombasa, linked to the Nairobi–Mombasa highway, to the south coast in Ugunda, to facilitate easier road transport and avoid the often unreliable ferry crossing at Likoni. Added the source: “When we get our international conference center, the roads must be ready, too, to carry that added traffic. There is no point to build new facilities if tourist and business visitors cannot reach there, or miss flights because of traffic jams. The central government and the county government must sit down with stakeholders and show us the way forward; the time for talking is really at an end now,” signaling increasing frustration with the past lack of attention to coastal infrastructure developments.