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Time bomb in City market’s traders and hawkers feud

Fredrick Otieno, a fish monger at the market with other hawkers. Photo/JOSEPH MURAYA.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 18- It is a bitter-sweet relationship between traders who own shops and those hawking on the corridors of the busy City Market, in Nairobi’s Central Business District.

The market, a source for a variety of animal products has been the centre of controversy after traders questioned why county government authorities allow hawkers to block their businesses while selling the same products in the shops.

A fishy affair it is, between the two antagonists, seeking to outshine one another in making ends meet.

But what is the source of this feud?

Traders renting shops at the iconic market accuses those hawking at the corridors of “swaying their customers with their low prices, dirtying the market and blocking their entrances.”

On their part, the hawkers claim the shop owners are simply afraid of competition.

In a fact-finding mission, Capital FM News spoke to both parties, in a bid to unravel the truth, that might help authorities put to an end the bitter rivalry that is threatening to escalate the situation.

But there is a section who favour a status quo, saying it will be the only chance for the market to retain customers.

– Politics of leasing shops-

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Traders who spoke to us said most of the current traders with stalls in the market have leased them from other people at a higher fee, than what is charged by the Nairobi County government.

This means that the initial owners who rent the shops have sub-leased them at an exorbitant cost that ranges from between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000 per month, way above the Sh25,000 charged by the County government.

We spoke to Stephen Omondi, a fish monger, who inherited the hawking space from his mother- a former trader at the market and who is aware of the narrative.

Stephen Omondi, a fish monger at the busy City Market. Photo/JOSEPH MURAYA.

“They are under pressure to pay rent, not even to the county but to the people they have sub-leased the shops from,” he said, occasionally beckoning at random customers who interrupted our interview.

“These customers”, he said, “prefer to buy from us and that is why these people fear competition.”

Pointing at the rest of the traders at the market, he said, “As you can see, we are about a hundred traders hawking products along the corridors.”

He wondered “where will all these people go if we are kicked out of this place?” He insists they are compliant with county government regulations.

But Jefferson Gachie, who owns a shop at the market is of a contrary opinion and cites the cost of running the business, as an anchor to the feud.

“We pay rent and electricity fee, which is usually huge, but they (hawkers) don’t,” Gachie said as he sliced pieces of chicken with a razor-sharp knife while dressed in a blood-stained white apron.

Their competitors at the corridors, he said, only pay a daily fee of Sh50 which amounts to a meager Sh1,500 a month.

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“How do you compete with such a person?” Gachie wondered.

In the defense of the hawkers, Rita Otieno said no one coerces customers to buy from them.

“It is a free market for a willing buyer and willing seller,” she said.

One of the traders owning to a shop, however, said there will be no human traffic without the hawkers.

“I disagree with my colleagues. Let us all stay otherwise we will lose customers,” he said.

Hawkers at City Market in Nairobi. Photo/JOSEPH MURAYA.

According to the hawkers, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has their back, a claim his spokesperson Elkana Jacob declined to comment on.

It remains to be seen how the County Government intends to resolve the wrangles, that keeps on reoccurring every now and then at times turning violent.

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