Thousands of small business owners have been defying a ban on hawking that was issued by Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja a week ago.
Disaster in waiting! Traders turn section of Haile Selassie avenue into a market https://t.co/WqjtXKZvJs
— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) November 6, 2023
Sakaja announced the decision on 25 October, saying it aimed to reinstate order in the capital. He issued an immediate enforcement of the ban within Moi Avenue and Tom Mboya Street.
“Hawking will no longer be allowed in these streets. That is an irreducible minimum,” he said, adding that plans are underway to ensure the hawkers are only allowed to ply their trade on designated streets between 4pm-10pm.
Sakaja dismissed accusations that he’s targeting the hawkers, saying the measures are meant to enhance the traffic flow of motorists and pedestrians on streets that are occupied by small traders.
“I want to ensure the safety of everyone, including Kenyans who own shops. They are also taxpayers,” he said.
This comes after Sakaja went on a five-day trip to Paris in mid-October to court investors to fund infrastructure projects in Nairobi.
The projects include the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), for which, according to the Kenyan government, the European Union is providing €45m (nearly $48.3m) worth of grants.
Additionally, the European Investment Bank and the French Development Agency will jointly support the projects with €236.3m (around $253.6m).
Hawkers not consulted
Disgruntled hawkers say they were not consulted before the ban was imposed.
Despite threats of arrest by Nairobi County security officers, the majority of the hawkers are still on the streets.
We campaigned and promised to help the hustlers — [the] small traders. We remind Sakaja, those are the people who elected him
Francis Gachanja, Secretary General Nairobi Central Business District Hawkers Association, is asking Governor Sakaja to reconsider the ban, citing the lack of proper consultation between them and the Nairobi leadership.
“Hawkers have no other alternative places to go and trade. We ask for more consultations with the governor on this issue,” he said.
Mercy Njeri has been hawking second-hand clothes in the streets of Nairobi for more than five years. She is not ready to leave.
“I’m ready to fight on. I have a daughter at the university. Where will I get her school fees and feed my family if chased from these streets?” She tells The Africa Report.
John Maina who sells oranges on Moi Avenue says he regrets voting for the Nairobi governor. “Sakaja promised to protect small traders like me. Why is he doing this to us now?”
For George Ochieng, an employee in a private company in the city centre, Sakaja’s move is laudable. “Governor Sakaja should not back down. We want an orderly city,” he says.
Winnie Mumangi, who works in the CBD, supports the ban, but she wants the Nairobi County Government to look for ways of helping the hawkers.
“Though I support a clean city, these hawkers should be provided with alternative areas to trade. They have families to care for,” She tells The Africa Report.
Not the first time
Last November, Sakaja announced a similar ban, but it never materialised due to little enforcement with hawkers invading the city streets.
Past Governors, Evans Kidero and Mike Sonko, also made similar attempts but all doomed to failure.
Nairobi County needs to build modern markets which will create an enabling environment for the small traders
Philip Kisia, former Nairobi Town Clerk who led the city operations between 2009-2012, has in the past said evicting hawkers from the city centre is not a long-term solution.
“Nairobi County needs to build modern markets which will create an enabling environment for the small traders,” he said, warning that evicting the hawkers without proper planning will increase insecurity in the capital.
Meanwhile, more than 10 Members of Parliament from the Mount Kenya and Nairobi region have slammed Sakaja’s ban.
The lawmakers accused him of making a unilateral decision, warning that it poses a threat to the livelihoods of unemployed Kenyans who depend on hawking to survive.
“We campaigned and promised to help the hustlers — [the] small traders. We remind Sakaja, those are the people who elected him,” said MP James Gakuya.
Edwin Kegoli, a political analyst in Nairobi, tells The Africa Report that “Governor Sakaja needs political will from all political actors and President Ruto himself to succeed”.
“I will not be surprised if he fails like his predecessors.”
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