, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 – Battles over a disputed plot on Nairobi’s Kirinyaga road continued unabated for the seventh day running on Wednesday with no end in sight.
Mechanics and traders who operated at the now famous Grogan garages vowed to ‘continue fighting for their rights’ even as the police battled them with teargas and rubber bullets.
“We are here to stay, no matter how long it takes, we will not be cowed by the police and their teargas,” electrician Andrew Musau told Capital News.
Starehe Member of Parliament Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, in whose constituency the disputed plot lies, addressed the mechanics and assured them of her support.
“The matter is in court, therefore, you should not be threatened by anyone. I am a government official and I can assure you this matter is being handled at the government level,” the Housing Assistant Minister said.
She vowed to help the mechanics to acquire bulldozers for flattening the ground to enable them run their businesses.
“I am going to work closely with your representatives to get the place flattened. We will get the machinery and equipment to do that. And even as I leave, you continue with your work,” she said.
But as soon as she left, all the mechanics fled too for fear of being chased away by the anti-riot police who had engaged them in running battles earlier in the morning.
Dozens were arrested and many more wounded.
Central divisional police chief Tito Kilonzi who led the security operation said no mechanic would be allowed to operate from there “because they are mixed with criminals.”
“It is an open secret that we are no longer dealing with mechanics and traders. We are dealing with criminals and we cannot be able to differentiate between genuine traders and thugs,” he told Capital News.
He spoke even as traders on Kirinyaga road, mainly vehicle spare part dealers complained of losing business due to the chaos there.
“For three days now, we have not been opening our businesses. We operate with fear because every time we are forced to close down whenever the police are chasing the mechanics,” a car dealer who only identified himself as Munene said.
Others accused the police of harassing them “even when they operate their businesses far away from the disputed land.”
“As much as we appreciate the work done by the police, I think they are lacking focus because they are just harassing everyone; even when we stand outside our shop they beat us with batons,” Mary Mwania, a shop attendant said.
Head of Police Operations in Nairobi Area Wilfred Mbithi, however, denied the claims and maintained that his officers “were disciplined in their work.”
“If they don’t want to be harassed, they should avoid gathering in small groups outside their shops, because, then we don’t get to differentiate genuine traders from hooligans,” he said.