The curtain has finally fallen on Kibuye - one of the most vibrant open air markets in Eastern Africa.
The Kisumu County authorities yesterday demolished structures in the market, weeks after relocating the over 20,000 traders to new sites amid protests.
The new market is expected to cost up to Sh479 million and will accommodate more traders with modern facilities.
For years traders have suffered losses from frequent unexplained fires that brought business to its knees as many went without compensation.
Yesterdays’ demolitions brought to an end the region’s largest open air market, with traders accusing the county government for blatant violation of court orders.
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Several traders who did not heed the notice to quit were left counting heavy losses after county government demolished stalls.
On Friday last week, Senior Resident Magistrate Robinson Ondieki issued a temporary injunction barring the county government from evicting the traders pending hearing and determination of suit the traders had lodged to challenge the exercise.
But county officials said they had not been served by the time the demolition started.
Kisumu City Manager Doris Ombara said the county administration won’t relent until an upgrade of the market is realised.
Ombara accused cartels of disrupting development of the markets and said some politicians are funding section traders to go to court and stop the construction.
“We will play our cards and use everything in our means to make sure the market is built; cartels want to run the city, who earn money from desperate traders yet continue to perform poorly,” said Ombara.
John Aluma, one of the oldest traders at the market who has depended on his furniture stalls for the last 48 years sat in agony as he watched looters cater away iron sheets from his shattered stall. “It is really unfortunate. I have lost all my life with the actions of the county government,” he said.
Christopher Ayieko, secretary of Kibuye welfare association termed the exercise as unfortunate.
“They have destroyed several livelihoods. They never gave us any notice and we had a successful suit against them,” said Ayieko.
Donors wanted the market expanded to accommodate the ever-increasing number of traders but minimal progress has been made after an attempt by former governor Jack Ranguma to kickstart the modernisation project stalled.
In the plan, Kibuye was set to be upgraded to an ultra-modern market capable of accommodating about 11,000 traders up from the current 5,000 in an Sh650 million plan that was also going to see two other markets upgraded.