It is dangerous to be an Uber driver in Kenya; you could be burnt alive

Altercations between local taxi drivers and Uber drivers are getting out of hand in Nairobi where the taxi hailing service was asked to leave earlier in the month. The latest was an attack on an Uber driver whose car was set on fire with him inside. Thankfully, the attackers were captured on CCTV, according to the police and the attack will be treated as an attempted murder.

Uber has faced several battles across the world, usually with local taxi drivers who claim the American company is driving them out of business and is doing it without doing much. Taxi drivers in Nairobi, where it started operating last year, complained that Uber is not compliant with requirements imposed by the County and National Governments and this makes it easy for the company to offer cheaper services which is partly responsible for increasing patronage by residents.

Also in South Africa, where it entered in 2013, Uber has faced challenges from assault of drivers to the threatening of passengers. The Metered Taxi Council of South Africa had insisted that Uber drivers should get the necessary licences and comply with the rules and regulations guiding public transport like other drivers. But Uber has continued to claim that those rules do not apply, as it is not a transport company, but only a Smartphone application.

Protests were held in Nairobi earlier in February with members of the Taxi Cab Association handing down a seven-day ultimatum to the government within which Uber should be kicked out of Nairobi. The government has moved to ensure the co-existence but the taxi drivers are not satisfied.

Nairobi County police boss Japheth Koome said talks would be held to reconcile the two groups of drivers after Sunday’s attack.

“I know the county government will call a meeting for all those in this business so that they can address all those issues, all grievances which could be there,” Business Daily Africa quoted Mr koome to have said.

“We have had a number of complaints (from Uber drivers) but not of a vehicle being burnt. Last night was the first one. We have had maybe stone throwing,” Koome said on Monday.

Four people were said to have driven up to a Uber taxi as it dropped a passenger, attacked the driver and set the car on fire with him inside. Unfortunately for them, they were caught on CCTV, which also had a good view of the number plate of their getaway car.

“Whoever is doing that (the attacks), I’ll deal with him ruthlessly,” said Koome.

The Uber taxi driver has been identified as Hesbon Pachety. He sustained multiple burns before wriggling his way out of the burning car through a window. Passers-by then took him to a nearby hospital.

Uber’s general manager for Sub-Saharan Africa Alon Lits commiserated with Pachety in a statement to Reuters. “We ask the authorities to condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms,” he adds.

Uber does not own drivers; it partners with local car owners who use its service to get passengers. Therefore, more than trying to halt Uber’s business, an attacker hurts his fellow citizen.