The numerous traffic police roadblocks on the highways do not serve the intended purpose, which is to enhance security and road safety. This explains why Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai is keen to have them streamlined. His recent directive to traffic officers to stop erecting roadblocks and conducting checks without permission from their seniors will go a long way in fulfilling his pledge to rid the National Police Service of corruption.
Sadly, many of the roadblocks are set up not to catch traffic offenders but to extort bribes from motorists. They have become cash cows for crooked officers. And if any suspects are arrested, most of them never end up in the courts as the officers’ palms are often greased.
There are highways where such roadblocks have been mounted day in, day out for several years at the same spot. This is hardly the way to enhance compliance with traffic rules and regulations. Would-be culprits and other crooks would be foolish to get caught as they can easily circumvent them or bribe their way through.
Without an element of surprise, these permanent roadblocks are useless. The best way to police the highways is to improve the mobility of the officers to pursue traffic offenders and stop the wastefulness evident in deploying dozens of officers to man each roadblock day and night.
Roadblocks also have serious economic consequences as they slow down the movement of goods and people. Indeed, the World Bank has often urged Kenya to remove all those along the transport corridors to boost regional trade. That would greatly reduce the bottlenecks, which increase the cost of doing business.
The extortionists must be kept off the roads.