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Eastleigh shops closed in weekly protest

NAIROBI
By Josphat Thiong'o | September 1st 2016

A woman walks past closed shops in Eastleigh after traders closed their businesses to protest against hawkers. [Photo: George Njunge/Standard]

All major shops in bustling Eastleigh business district were Wednesday closed as traders started a "weekly protest" against hawkers.

The businesspeople complained that Eastleigh has been invaded by hawkers who have created an "unconducive environment" for business.

The angry traders vowed that they will be closing down the shops from Wednesday to Friday every week until a solution is found. Wednesday, only hawkers were doing business in the largely deserted streets.

According to Eastleigh Business District Association Chairman Ibrahim Hussein, the area has over 20,000 hawkers. Out of these, Mr Hussein said, only 200 are from Eastleigh.

"By closing down the shops, it means we will not pay KRA taxes, rent and any other levies to the area government and this will have an impact on the country's economy. We have tried talking to the governor and a committee was formed but it stopped operating after two months," Hussein said.

He said that all major roads and access roads in Eastleigh were flooded with hawkers who he blamed for the traffic nightmare in the area.

Eastleigh business community, Hussein said, has investments amounting to Sh100 billion ranging from clothing, electronics, entertainment, hotels and other businesses.

"Organised cartels are opening shops right in front of our businesses and we end up losing because customers cannot access the malls and other establishments. It is not fair because we pay thousands in licences but hawkers do not pay a single shilling to the county government," said Hussein.

The county government was also criticised for not providing loading zones for vehicles.-

He further said that the association had identified an area for the 200 'legal' hawkers and is seeking the county's help to relocate them.

The business community also blamed hawkers for the rampant insecurity in the area.

"Majority of the attacks target mobile money transfer outlets and the big crowd makes it easy for the gang members to escape," Hussein said.

County executive for Trade, Anna Othoro confirmed that her department has held talks with the business owners.

Causing obstruction

"We have been in discussions with the business people in Eastleigh. They are against the hawkers causing obstruction and we have agreed that there needs to be order and we shall act to uphold this. We support the businesspeople and their rights must be protected," said Ms Othoro.

Sarah Kasiime, a trader from Uganda, was disappointed by the closure. "I was in Eastleigh by 9.30am but I could not believe it when I found the shops closed. I thought they were yet to open, only to learn that they were protesting," she said.

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