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Tired of donations and fake promises, Gikomba traders want a fix for mysterious fires

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1- As hundreds of Gikomba traders count losses amounting to millions of shillings following a dawn inferno, they have said enough is enough with fake promises.

The traders said they want a permanent solution to the perennial fires, and not the empty promises the government and politicians give them whenever the calamities occur.

Over the years, politicians have made commitments after every fire incident but other than immediate donations, the traders say there is nothing to show out of Kenya’s oldest, expansive market that is the largest in East and Central Africa.

The traders have called on the government to act swiftly and enhance the standard of the market, to reverse the worrying trend, which has for long become an annual ritual.

“They will bring food and iron sheets, but until when?” an agitated Esther Wairimu, one of the affected traders said, as she counted losses following the Saturday morning inferno.

While the County Government of Nairobi has over time made commitments of building a modern market, Gikomba remains a compilation of hundreds of congested shacks illegally connected to the power grid.

The affected section of the market has only roads spacious enough for a handcart, with no tarmac.

“No one knows what causes these fires. It has proven difficult for the Government to fix it,” John Kiai, another affected trader said.

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While some believe the fire was a result of an electrical mishap others like Mary Wangui claim it is another incident of arson.

“If the market was modern and we had CCTV cameras, this could not have happened,” Wangui said.

Nairobi County Executive in charge of Emergency Anne Mwenda, who toured the scene, challenged traders at the market to ensure they don’t occupy spaces allocated for roads, for easy access in case of an emergency.

She said there were no injuries following the fire incident.

“We shall do everything possible to ensure all affected traders get back to work,” she said.

But Gikomba has become synonymous with mysterious fires, but what did leaders promise to do in the past?

In June 2018, 16 people died during a fire incident in the market that left more than 70 others with serious injuries.

After the incident, Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti was asked to investigate it, with a motive of bringing to an end the traders prolonged pain.

In late 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta had directed the DCI to probe another incident, but years later, nothing has been established.

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During the previous incidents, Governor Mike Sonko made promises including a major facelift of the market which was to be done in phases.

The big question for the traders is, until when?

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