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No end in sight to Eastleigh market saga

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – The process of modernising the Eastleigh City Council Retail Market has taken a new twist after council bulldozers flattened structures on Sunday night.

Traders at the market said the council bulldozer arrived at the wee hours of the morning and flattened the remaining buildings, despite a court order barring their eviction.

“There is so much corruption with our leadership. We have lost faith with this government and the City Council. They only carry out what they think is beneficial to them. Look at what they have done to us. Where will we get back our investments?” one of the traders said after being barred from the market.

They claim the market, which hosted 500 stalls was a source of livelihood for more than 1,000 families.

A metal sheet fence has been erected around the site with hired youth maintaining guard to keep the traders out of the premises.

Ann Ndungu, who saw a stall owned by her family crushed, said that they intend to ask the court to reprimand both the council and the developer.

“We intended to go to court today (Monday), and ask the court to take action against the two parties but our lawyer has told us that it is not possible so we will have to wait until tomorrow(Tuesday),” she said.

One of the youth told Capital Newsbeat that the private developer was being wrongly demonised as he had only responded to an invitation from the Council to develop the land. 

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“You are Kenyans and the City Council is part of the government, so if they decide to sell to us why are we being told that we have grabbed yet we paid for it?” he posed.

The private developer, who acquired the property through a public-private partnership with the City Hall, will put an ultra-modern market on the piece of land at a cost of Sh500 million.

The issue also revolves around some compensation from the government to facilitate arbitration in the transaction.

Before taking possession of the site, the contractor had offered to pay traders operating at the market Sh20 million to vacate the premises.

The traders were said to have declined the offer even after the figure was raised to Sh25 million, saying the money was too little.

This amount was to help them shift their property to an alternative site where they would re-start their business.

Market chairman Mwathi Mugwe denied knowledge of any compensation by the government through the City Council, but claims that all necessary procedures were followed.

On Saturday, City Hall director of Legal Affairs Mary Ng’ethe said the deal was under the Council’s policy.

“The arrangement has been initiated by the Council under a build, own and revert programme, where the company is expected to recoup its investment within 25 years before the property reverts to the Council,” she said.

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