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The dilemma that is the 20,000 traders in Kisii town’s streets

By Erick Abuga | Mar 16th 2020 | 2 min read
By Erick Abuga | March 16th 2020
Kenya National Highways Authority General Director Peter Mundinia speaking when he paid a courtesy call to Governor James Ongwae at his office. [Sammy Omingo/Standard]

With less than three months left before Kisii County hosts this year's Madaraka Day celebrations, officials from the municipality board and the county government are facing a herculean task trying to relocate nearly 20,000 traders from the town's streets.

With President Uhuru Kenyatta expected to lead Kenyans in marking 57 years of self-rule, the fete offers the county leadership a golden opportunity to re-organise the town by reclaiming public land that has been grabbed in the past 20 years.

During a meeting with traders at the Kisii Cultural Hall on Wednesday, Governor James Ongwae (pictured) said any plans to decongest the town would be done after wide consultations.

"There is no doubt that some changes have to be effected as we host the rest of the country for Madaraka Day celebrations. We have to re-carpet the roads and allow for the improvement and expansion of the walkways," he said.

Mr Ongwae has already issued an executive order for all buildings, including government structures, to be repainted in the next 30 days.

Kisii urban engineer Harun Oyaro said the municipality board has received Sh164 million from the Word Bank to go towards infrastructure development.

"All the projects funded in this programme are priority-based and have been designed to create immediate, positive impact on the people."

The county government had hoped that construction of a Sh204 million Daraja Mbili market would have helped decongest the town, but its delayed completion continues to hinder the devolved unit’s plans.

The market was designed to accommodate 700 traders and another 7,000 customers, porters, transporters, suppliers and attendants.

County Commissioner Stephen Kehara said the contractor has been paid Sh145 million, adding that the project is 80 per cent complete.

A committee chaired by Public Service Executive Edina Kangwana will also have to find space to accommodate more than 4,000 vehicles expected during the celebrations.

There are plans to improve Getembe, Nyanchwa and Kisii primary schools’ playgrounds to be used for parking.

Walter Kiyondi, a traders' representative, urged the county government to repossess land in the centre of town that was acquired illegally.

"They must create an alternative. Let them open up the filthy and abandoned backstreets as well as improve on infrastructure within the central business district if indeed they intend to decongest the town," said Mr Kiyondi.

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