The government has lifted an eight-year-old ban on night travel for cargo transporters plying the Lamu-Witu-Garsen road in Lamu County.
Since 2014, following terrorist attacks, public service vehicles (PSV) had been operating only during day and in one convoy escorted by armed police. Private vehicles, including those ferrying cargo, were also banned from travelling at night.
Speaking in Witu over the weekend, Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata announced that the ban on night travel for vehicles transporting food, building materials, farm produce and other goods had been lifted.
But Mr Elungata said the night travel ban remains for PSVs.
The administrator called on drivers to obey security directives, including stopping for checks.
“The ban on night travel for cargo operators is officially lifted right from now due to the fact that security here has greatly improved,” he said.
He added: “I will also engage the county security committee on whether PSVs can also be allowed to operate at night. I urge you to give me two weeks before I issue directions on the matter.”
Mr Elungata said the national government remains vigilant on threats to security in the Coast region.
“The national government is keen to ensure that normality returns to Lamu, with steps already underway to build two new security roads that will enhance timely response to any insecurity incidents that are reported here,” he said.
The reaction of Lamu residents to the announcement was mixed.
Mr Ali Famau, who drives a cargo vehicle, expressed gratitude, saying it will boost the transport business in the region.
“The ban forced us to do only a single trip from Lamu to Mombasa and vice versa. I am happy that now we will be able to do even three trips and that means business will be good,” he said.
Mr Salim Bakari, a matatu driver, thanked the national government for completing construction of the road and improving security across the region.
The Sh10.8 billion Lamu-Witu-Garsen road was officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 20, the same day he commissioned the first berth at the new Lamu port.
“The number of PSVs plying our route in recent days has increased tremendously. We were looking forward to the resumption of night travel for all vehicles, but I am disappointed with Mr Elungata’s announcement that only cargo vehicle transporters will use the route at night,” Mr Bakari said.
And Mr Said Omar, another driver, said the government also needs to lift the ban on night travel for PSVs as the number of tourists and visitors is rising, especially since the Lamu port was opened.
"The December tourist high season is around the corner. Christmas and New Year festivities are also nearing. Visitors and other people coming here to enjoy their holidays or look for work at the new port have also increased in recent times," he said.
"That means the transport business is booming. We just want a situation where people can travel at any time they wish, with no limitations such as the night travel ban."