Traders count losses after fire razes Gikomba, again

Rose Wambui, a trader of Gikomba market, Nairobi, counts her losses after fire razed goods worth millions of shillings early Wednesday morning. [Elvis Ogina/Standard]

When a fire swept across Gikomba market with a hellish fury yesterday morning, one trader, Rose Wambui, was grappling with a double loss.

In 2017, Ms Wambui lost property worth Sh5 million when another fire razed the market. Her spirit was crushed, but she managed to lift herself up. She took a loan, and rebuilt her business from scratch.

But misfortune has followed her callously like a vulture would follow a dying target. This time, she had two stalls - one that she had fully stocked, and another that was in its final phases of construction.

Both went up in flames crushing her world for the second time. 

“I had acquired a loan to begin this business, but I’m now left with nothing,” Wambui said, staring at the ash and the smoldering embers.

“This was my only source of income. Where do I turn to?”

Already, the bank she took the loan from has auctioned her car since she was struggling to keep up with the monthly repayments.

She was hoping the business would pick up and support her family. She was also banking on compensation from her insurer to pay off the remainder of the bank loan. The insurer has ignored her pleas.  

Sabotage claims

“Since 2017, I am yet to be paid by the insurance company despite making unending follow-ups,” Wambui said.

Wambui now only hopes the Government would compensate her, since the disaster has wiped out the little financial cushion she had left.

When the 2017 inferno gutted the market, killing 16 people, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered investigations.

In June last year, another fire took down some parts of the market, and not much has been heard about the State’s investigation.

Yesterday, the burnt stalls were occupied by mainly shoe traders like Wambui.

Elizabeth Githinji, who is the Secretary General of the Association of Traders in Area 42, where the fire struck hard, said: “The firefighters took time to show up compared to previous times.”

There were claims that by mid-day yesterday, the fire had not been contained. That is despite many assertions by authorities that it had been contained a few moments after it occurred.

She said the traders suspect sabotage attempts, and the Government should intervene.

Another trader, Nahashon Mugira, expressed his displeasure with how the Government was handling the situation.

“The Government so far has not fulfilled its promise of guarding the market,” said Mr Mugira.

The traders want more security for the market.

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