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Kenyatta market traders count their losses

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 – Traders at the Kenyatta Market were yet to come to terms with losses incurred after the City Council demolished their stalls on Thursday night citing insecurity.

Some of the small scale traders who operate their businesses opposite a section of Ngumo Estate could be seen trying to salvage what was left of their businesses.

They argued that they were there legally as it is the City Council that relocated them to their current position adding that they paid Sh100 every week as operating fee.

“I almost cried when I saw what had become of my business. What are we supposed to do and where are we supposed to go? Some of my colleagues come to me crying asking me to help them but how can I do that and I’m also one of them?” asked Peter Thuku who serves as the Chairman of the operators

“They didn’t give us notice and we didn’t know what their plans were. Some of them later told us that they demolished our kiosks because we will create a slum here. But we wouldn’t do that and we even pay Sh50 to the council twice a week,” said Mercy Kajuma.

“It was a Good Friday which was very sad for us,” said another trader.

The business operators who mainly sell groceries, fish and second hand clothes further alleged that some of City Council officers who brought down their stalls looted property amounting to tens of thousands of shillings.

They asked the government to compensate them for their losses and also resettle their businesses elsewhere arguing that it bore the responsibility of protecting them and their businesses.

“Most of us take loans to finance our businesses so when you destroy them, how do you expect us to repay them? Things have become very hard for us and we need compensation,” said Peter Njau.

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“I lost my stock of fish worth Sh10,000 so today I had to take fish from the market on loan so that I can at least get something to feed my children,” said Evelyne Ooko.

Meanwhile Gichugu Member of Parliament Martha Karua also through her Twitter account condemned the act saying adequate notice ought to have been given to the traders before their stalls were demolished.

She further accused the council officials of perpetuating unemployment through the act noting that the businesses were a source of income to the Kenyans. She also challenged the government to give the traders an alternative source of employment arguing that it had destroyed their businesses.

The Kenyans for Justice and Development (KEJUDE) Trust also came out defending the traders saying it would go to court to seek reprieve from the City Council on behalf of the traders.

National convener Neto Agostinho said the civil society group would together with the traders demonstrate against the council’s act before taking the matter to court.

“We want the traders to have an inventory by Tuesday morning. Once it’s ready we’ll decide which day to go to the City Council but it’s definitely before the end of next week. We will walk to the Town Clerk and picket until such a time when he gives us succinct decision on when he’ll compensate the workers,” he said.

Director Okiya Omtatah added that the government was obligated to provide for its citizens as well as empower them economically.

He accused the City Council of undermining the Constitution as well as promoting impunity.

“The government always talks of creating more jobs through the informal sector yet it is the same one that is destroying it. These mama mbogas and the hard cart pushers are part of this country and they contribute to its economy,” he said.

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“Then the City Council keeps coming up with by-laws that cannot be justified and it is behaving like a law within itself,” he said.

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