Mixed bag of fortunes for residents as port opens on Thursday

The aftermath of the ongoing demolitions in Kisumu. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The final preparations for the opening of Kisumu Port have come with a mixed bag of fortunes for residents and traders.

While the revamped port will provide job opportunities for seafarers, a number of traders have lost their businesses to demolitions, which aim to open the lakefront for the operationalisation of the port.

The final round of demolitions saw more than 3,000 traders evicted. Winmatt Business Centre and Lake Market were flattened.

The demolitions, which started a month ago, have seen traders and residents lose property which were established on Kenya Railways Corporation land.

Watched helplessly

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President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to lead five other East African colleagues on Thursday in opening the port, which collapsed more than three decades ago.

Dr George Opande, Winmatt Centre director, watched helplessly as bulldozers flattened the business he has built for years.

“It is sad indeed. Many families are going to feel the impact of this demolition, and no sane Government should do this to its people,” said Opande who claimed his business was not part of the establishments on the corporation’s land.

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According to Opande, the centre had at least 200 shops and was supporting more than 2,000 other traders directly and indirectly.

The market situated off Jomo Kenyatta Highway and adjacent to Maseno University’s city campus has been a favourite point for low-income workers in the CBD.

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It housed a cocktail of businesses from eateries, stationary, beauty and barber shops, as well as second-hand cloth lines.

The demolitions came barely a month after the famous Lwang’ni Beach eateries, Akamba Lane shops and a number of other temporary establishments within the central business district were demolished.

Tabitha Ougo, a trader at Winmatt, said most of them were caught flat-footed as they had not imagined the demolitions would reach their premises.

“We were very reluctant as we didn’t know we would be affected, and as traders we don’t know how we are going to start rebuilding our lives,” she said.

But even as the traders cried foul over the demolitions, other would-be beneficiaries of the Sh3 billion port project were already salivating for its operationalisation.

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Some of the residents were putting final touches to their documents for applications for about 30 job opportunities — on temporary basis — which have been advertised by Kenya Railways Corporation.

Refurbished vessels

The advertisement, made on August 6, sought candidates who will work in MV Uhuru, one of the main vessels already refurbished.

Interviews for the positions were set to be conducted yesterday at the Kenya Marine School in Kisumu.

County Director of Communication Aloice Ager said  preparations for the opening of the port were in top gear. “We have done our part as the county government, which was to open the lakefront,” said Ager.

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