Bid to eject hawkers from streets proves headache to Sakaja

Hawkers protest outside Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja's office alleging harassment by county inspectorate officers, November 15, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The recent move by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja to ban hawking on the roads and sidewalks within the city has taken a political twist.

A section of politicians now argue that the move was rushed and needs to be reconsidered.

During a recent meeting with inspectorate officers in the Central Business District and hawker’s representatives, the governor said that the move will decongest the city centre.

Weeks after several hawkers were moved from some roads and walkways, some leaders now say the action has left thousands jobless.

During the first anniversary of the Hustler Fund, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua hit out at county bosses for ejecting the hawkers from the streets and singled out Nairobi.

“I want to ask leaders in the counties in the country including Nairobi to leave alone the hustlers. When they get on the streets they don’t have any issue with anyone,” the Deputy President said.

“They just sell their wares and go home, I urge all the leaders who were elected with us to embrace the hustlers the same way we loved them when they were voting for us,” he added.

Gachagua asked the governors to respect the hawkers who voted for them.

“Those people who are rich were against us but the hustlers stood with us, that is why we ask the governors to respect those hustlers, they were responsible for the positions we have today,”

“They are great people. We encourage them, we support them, they are solutions to Kenya’s economic challenges because they work hard and if we support them they will help this nation,” he added.

Starehe MP Amos Mwago (Jubille), whose constituency covers the city centre said handling hawkers is not a walk in the park and the ideal way should be to construct markets for them, which was one of the key pledges by the Kenya Kwanza administration.

“My efforts to defend the hawkers and rushed moves have not borne any fruits because the Governor has not listened to me,” Mwago regretted.

“In fact, I have reached out to the trade committee so that we can bring the county boss on the table because seems not to understand,” he added.

The MP said 3,000 traders have been rendered jobless in a span of one month after they were ejected from the streets.

He argued that Muthurwa market was ideal but the government abandoned the initial plan to have matatus from Jogoo Road terminate their journey there.

“Muthurwa was the best idea when vehicles from Jogoo road were supposed to end their journey at Muthurwa," Mwago said adding that, "when the matatus were allowed to access the city Centre, the hawkers followed their customers to the city leaving the market."

Mwago said attempts to push the hawkers to some backstreet lanes is not effective since some traders who were operating along Moi Avenue have never found space.

The MP noted says, another problem is Marikiti market where traders have been forced to sell along the busy Racecourse road.

“Adjacent to Marikiti is a huge railway land, what the governor ought to do is to talk to Kenya Railways so that the county can lease the land," he said.

The plan to de-congest the city centre has seen the county government suspend three enforcement officers linked to harassment of traders, motorists and business owners on November 29.

Those suspended are Security and Compliance Chief Officer, Tony Kimani, Director of City Inspectorate, Benjamin Omondi and Assistant Director Operations, Carol Njuguna.

Kimani’s position will be taken by Eva Wairiuko while Omondi will be replaced by William Kangogo, in an acting capacity.

This was after pictures of a minor who was allegedly harassed by law enforcement officers emerged online, sparking public uproar.