Members decry use of excessive force during crackdown on hawkers

A woman is cornered by county askaris amid ongoing operation to rid hawkers out of the Central business District. [Photo by Beverlyne Musili/Standard]
The ongoing clampdown on hawkers and boda boda operators has elicited mixed reactions among Members of the County Assembly.

This follows numerous complaints from the public that the police and county askaris are using excessive force to remove women with children strapped to their backs from the streets.

On Wednesday, the county assembly debated an adjournment motion aimed at ensuring hawkers were evacuated from the Central Business District albeit in a humane manner.

Minority Chief Whip Peter Imwatok, who moved the Motion, said the operation was being done with total disregard to human rights, in particular to breast-feeding mothers and persons with disabilities.

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“The manner in which the inspectorate and police are executing the directive is inhuman, primitive and ruthless and has led to loss of lives, property and even livelihood by the traders,” stated Imwatok.

The Chief Whip further observed that there was no policy in place on the management of small-scale traders and the county executive should provide alternative trading areas to ensure a smooth transition.

Harambee Ward MCA, Anthony Kimemia, however, supported the crackdown, arguing that some of the hawkers were armed necessitating the use of force.

“There are areas such as Ngara near Equity where the hawkers will not allow county askaris to pass. They are armed and draw their guns and knives when arrested,” he said.

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Michael Ogada, the Embakasi Ward MCA, observed that unemployment was the underlying issue and unless it was addressed the crackdown was in vain. He supported the crackdown, but indicated that it should not be used to harass, injure or even kill the traders.

He suggested that the county identifies specific streets in which the traders can operate before a long-term solution is found.

“We agree that the hawkers have contributed to crime, but these are our people and we must accept it. Where does the county expect them to get their income yet they also pay taxes?” posed Ogada.

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