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Grogan: Mechanics win round one

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21 – Mechanics and traders at Kirinyaga road were finally allowed to occupy the disputed grounds on Thursday, following intervention by the Internal Security Ministry, ending a week of violent protests.

The move came moments after Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode ordered the withdrawal of all police officers who had engaged the mechanics and traders in violent protests.

Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe told Capital News that they were “under instructions to ensure the mechanics are not barred from the grounds.”

“We have withdrawn our officers from the disputed ground, we understand the matter is in court and we will not interfere anymore,” Mr Kiraithe said.  “Police had not been adequately briefed on the ownership of the land early enough.”

“There has been no proper information on ownership. The issue has been clarified now and that is why we don’t want to continue keeping our officers there,” he added.

Police have been barring mechanics from accessing the grounds for a week now after a private developer started evicting them.

The ground is the subject of a dispute pitting the private developer and the over 2,000 mechanics who have been operating from there.

In the past week, the private developer hired armed youths and bulldozers to dig trenches to keep away the traders.

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On Thursday, Housing Assistant Minister Bishop Margaret Wanjiru in whose constituency the ground falls led the mechanics to the grounds and even offered to hire bulldozers to clear the land for them.

“We have fought and won the war; you should consider yourselves bonafide occupiers of this plot. No one is going to evict you because there is a case in court,” she said.

Those interviewed by Capital News said they had suffered loss of business during the past week as police engaged them in running battles.

Police have been pitching camp on the grounds since Thursday last week, chasing all the mechanics and traders from the grounds.

“We are so happy because finally we are going back to our premises. It has been a week of agony,” Jackson Oloo, a mechanics said.

Another mechanic, Martin Omondi said he had lost equipment worth nearly Sh50,000 in the protests.

“The government has taken a good step to return the grounds to us. But we still have a difficult task of getting our machinery that was destroyed,” he said.

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