, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 18 – Dozens of traders and mechanics were arrested on Tuesday morning as they protested a move to evict them from their stalls at the Grogan area in down town Nairobi.
Police used teargas to disperse the traders who found the area sealed off following a court order barring them from operating on the disputed private piece of land.
There was a major stand-off as heavily armed police officers sealed off the area and ordered all the mechanics out.
“I have three children and this is where I get my livelihood. I have stayed in this place for very many years now I wonder where we are supposed to go. The government should stand up and defend us,” stated one trader.
“These people came at night, fenced the whole area and told us to go away from this place where we normally get our living. I have stayed in this place for twenty years now,” another one said.
“As at now, I am just transporting my belongings from this place and looking for another place although I do not know what is going to happen to me.”
Starehe deputy Police boss Joseph Gichangi urged the traders to heed the court order and use legal means to address their grievances.
“We as the police are providing security to the auctioneers who were given an order to evict those people who are operating in these premises. The order is actually being executed and our work is only to maintain law and order,” he stated.
“My advice to the traders is that they should follow the court procedure because the owners of the plot also followed the court process and they should also be able to listen to them is they have any facts.”
Only motorists who had left their vehicles at the garage were allowed to take them away.
The mechanics were demanding to be allowed into the piece of land where they have been operating for over 20 years.
The owner of the property last month obtained a court order to re-possess his land but the mechanics insist they have a right to continue operating from there.
In July 2010, the High Court dismissed a bid by more than 800 mechanics operating at the Grogan area in Nairobi who had wanted ownership of the controversial multi-million shillings property.
The mechanics had wanted the court to grant them ownership of the plot which they have been trying to wrestle from the management of the Jamia Mosque.
The plot had been a subject of violent battles that pitted the mechanics against police officers who had been attempting to evict them.
High Court judge Mbogholi Msagha threw out the suit because the mechanics had failed to disclose to the court that the matter had been dealt with previously by another judge.
Justice Msagha said the mechanics abused the court process when they filed the case when another judge had dealt with a similar request.
The judge ruled that the petitioners failed to disclose to the court that there was a pending petition over the same issue that is yet to be determined.
The applicants had claimed they are the legal owners of the property.