Skip to content
CityLab
Perspective

Once Again, a Ban on Matatus in the Nairobi City Center Has Failed

This month, Nairobi tried to ban matatus from the city center. As the privately owned buses are many Kenyans’ only travel option, the ban lasted only a day.
People and matatus on the crowded streets of Nairobi, Kenya.
People and matatus on the crowded streets of Nairobi, Kenya.Jerome Delay/AP

Kenya, and especially its capital, Nairobi, has a love-hate relationship with matatus, the privately owned, colorful, loud deathtraps that form the backbone of what passes for the country’s public transport system.

Just how dependent the city is on them was dramatically demonstrated at the beginning of December when the county Governor, Mike Sonko, tried to ban them from Nairobi’s central business district (CBD). What followed was days of commuter chaos, as thousands were forced to trek to work. The public outcry that followed led to the directive being binned after only one day.