Top Stories / National
Wednesday, 31 Aug 2016 14:02 EAT
Were a city's economic prosperity defined by the number of its hawkers, Nairobi would be one of the most prosperous cities in the world. For months, hawkers have been pushing their way to nearly all of Nairobi's streets, even those previously unreachable ones for them roads such as Kenyatta Avenue and City Hall Way.
Fortunately for users of the pavements in the central business district, the hawkers hardly venture on those roads before 5pm, and even then they have to be constantly watching over their shoulders to avoid avoid arrest by askaris from the Nairobi City County.
Earlier in the year, after reports emerged that some hawkers had lost their lives during clashes with County officials enforcing regulations against hawking, the county government slowed down on its operations against hawking, leaving way for a hawking army that literally takes over Nairobi streets every evening.
In downtown Nairobi and the shopping centres east of the central business district, hawkers now take control of the streets around the clock. Business owners who have to compete against hawkers have protested to the county government to no avail, leaving the hawkers to operate with a level of confidence never seen before.
In an apparent sign of angst against the county government rather than hawkers themselves, the business community in Eastleigh took the unprecedented step of closing their businesses to protest the hawkers' menace. All of Eastleigh's large traders, including wholesalers and mall owners, closed their shops today and promised not to reopen them until the hawking crisis shall have been addressed.
The chairperson of the traders, Ahmed Mohammed, told journalists that over 45 shopping malls will remain closed for the next three days to give the county and national governments time to act on the hawkers.
Mohammed said the hawkers have been blocking the entrances and exit points of business premises, hence making it hard for customers to gain access to the Eastleigh shops.
“We want our county and national governments to come and intervene to look for another area to relocate the hawkers because they have been blocking the entrances and exit points of the premises,” said Mohammed.
Mohammed also said that customers of the big shops have been reporting robberies targeted at those going into the shops. He said a number of customers have also been robbed of their purchases.
Tensions have been building up between the hawkers and Eastleigh business owners for some time now. A few weeks ago, hawkers around Moonlight Mall hurled stones at the premises after they were asked to clear the entrance and exit points. Idris Ali, the mall’s owner, said that the hawkers refused to leave and engaged the police in running battles.
The action by the Eastleigh business could mark the start of campaigns by the business community against hawkers. Shop owners in downtown Nairobi have been complaining about the hawkers the inconvenience to them caused by hawkers who block entrances to their businesses.
The writer is the news editor of the Kenya Free Press