Gikomba traders defy State's directive, start rebuilding stalls

Traders were yesterday busy rebuilding their destroyed shops at Gikomba market. [David Njaaga, Standard]

More than 20 years ago, Paul Nyongesa moved to the city to eke out a living. He started small, doing menial jobs at Gikomba market, saving every penny earned. Then one day, his friend showed him space where he could put up business, next to the river.

With his savings and some cash borrowed from friends, Nyongesa started a furniture shop that would become his sole source of income.

“I only had a saw and a carpenter’s plane, but I trusted my skills and put all my returns on growing the business,” said Nyongesa.

Greatest undoing

But regular fires at the market have been his greatest undoing. For the fifth time since he started operating at the market, fire razed down his business.

“This is the fifth time my property is burning down in Gikomba, this time taking with it a whopping Sh2 million worth of goods,” he says, dusting a piece of timber from the tar.

“This can only be sold as firewood at a throw-away price. Ordinarily, it would cost Sh230 a foot and Sh420 for hard wood,” he says, occasionally dusting his face.

Nyongesa said the cause of the fires have never been established despite the Government promising to conduct in-depth investigations.

“The story is the same, we leave for our homes in the evening, in the wee hours receive calls that Gikomba is on fire. The Government then comes and promises to establish the cause, but in weeks all is forgotten, and we are left to start from the scratch. It doesn’t last six months before another fire,” he told The Standard yesterday.

Losing livelihood

This time Nyongesa and other traders are not only suffering loss of property but risk losing their livelihood after a directive was issued barring them from reconstructing the stalls.

Deputy county commissioner Moses Lilan said the affected area was riparian and should be evacuated. But since necessity compels, the traders have ignored the notice and by midday on Monday, the tarred ground was a beehive of activity, with poles already erected as construction began.

“Where do they expect us to go yet they haven’t given us an alternative place to rebuild our businesses? We shall reconstruct and pick up the pieces of what is left to start over,” says James Mwangi, another trader.

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