When Nairobi hawkers come to you with knives, axes

By Graham Kajilwa | Published Wed, July 12th 2017 at 12:41, Updated July 12th 2017 at 13:03 GMT +3

NAIROBI, KENYA: It is 5:30 pm. You are tired and all you are looking forward to is getting home. But then, the menace of traffic orchestrated by some traffic officer that has plans to make your day more worse than it has been stalls you.

He raises his hand as you approach Nyayo Stadium round about on Mombasa Road an indication that you should stop, no matter what the traffic lights show. As soon as you roll down your driver's seat window to cool your face with the evening breeze, a man in his late 30s jumps into sight.

Dressed in a tattered checkered shirt, blood shot eyes his face partly hidden in some old faded blue cap, the man, in his hands holds tightly an axe with a red handle that he keeps waving around your face, carelessly, begging you to buy while half of his body is inside your car.

And in that moment you freeze, not sure how you are supposed to react.

This is the scenario that many motorists around the city operating along Upper Hill and Mombasa Road find themselves in.

While it is normal to encounter hawkers whether one is on foot or in an automobile, it is not a pleasant scene, as some motorists put it to have someone almost force you to buy a new, sparkly and well sharpened knife or an axe that you can almost see your reflection in.

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"I do not like such a scene. At first, I thought it was just some trial business of some sort, but this business has persisted. It is just scary to me," said a motorist Kennedy Kiplagat.

These days, he said, he chooses to roll up his windows whenever he approaches a traffic jam, just in case they (hawkers) show up.

"And it is even worse when you have a lady companion and they come on the passenger seat. Surely, what will I need an axe for yet I stay in a flat?" he posed.

While other hawkers prefer selling car plugs, charging cables, steering wheel covers, car seat covers or at least a snack or water-from some strange brand-to sooth motorists who have been in a long journey, James Njunguna chose to sell knives and axes instead.

To him, he said, he does not pose any danger at all to motorists. And it is safer for him as there are no city askaris on major highways outside of the Central Business District.

"Of course, some are afraid that you want to inflict harm on them but that is not our intention," he said when The Standard caught up with him on Lower Upper Hill road.

Njuguna said he has been hawking the tools since 2007 and so far, the business has been good.

"You know, for us we just sell. We do not know what you will use it for that is for you to decide. Personally, I am able to sell sometimes three axes and some knives on a daily basis. That is good business," said Njuguna laughing.