Gikomba and the unending fires
Is it not becoming a norm that whenever fire breaks out in Gikomba market that is since 1980’s, the government suddenly realizes something needs to be done and quickly calls for investigations and even come up with brilliant ways on how to modernize the market?
In fact just recently 6th of August 2021, when fire broke out at Gikomba’s mitumba section, the government promised to install security cameras to help curb these incidents.
“The President has sent us here to offer his condolences and to also reiterate his promise to ensure that Gikomba traders have a safe environment to conduct their businesses without these persistent fires,” Interior PS Karanja Kibicho said while assessing the aftermath of the fire incident that left traders counting losses.
“The government is currently banking on CCTV cameras, we are planning to install them in the near future at this market to solve this constant fire problem” he added.
Lest we forget that it was just last year June 2020 that the same government promised to install these CCTV cameras when fire razed down property at the cereals section of the market.
“The government will in approximately three months’ time install high mast CCTV cameras , a perimeter wall, a borehole a solid management and draining system In this market to tame this frequent fires,” Kibicho revealed this while being accompanied by Kamkunji MP Yusuf Hassan and Nairobi Metropolitan service Director General Mohammed Badi.
According to the traders, they have been pleading to the government for long to deploy security officers in that market but that has fell on deaf ears.
“aki please watuletee polisi huku watuguard , tumeimba hadi tumechoka. Let the government deploy police officers to man this market, we can’t be losing property every year. We have been singing this song like forever, we too pay taxes.” Wanjiru aka wa T shirt a trader at gikomba market pleads.
“We are not opposed to the government’s decision to demolish kiosks that have blocked access roads in the market, it would be prudent if these traders are allocated spaces inside the market, but we will oppose any move to completely kick them out of the market,”Peter Wachira from the Mitumba Association of Kenya warns regarding the creation of access roads to help facilitate faster response of firefighters during emergencies.
Allegations of arson attacks targeting traders in Gikomba market have been on the rife, the public feeling that this could be a way of threatening traders to leave the market. These allegations are supported by Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan who says most of these fires are planned prior.
“No one has ever been arrested for the crimes that have been committed in Gikomba, 15 people died in June 2018 no one has been detained and the question I am asking the police force is what are you doing about it. When are we going to get a report that will give us an insight into what is behind the fires,” Yusuf Hassan MP Kamukunji was quoted.
The Gikomba market which currently houses approximately 40,000 traders and the biggest open air market in this country has over the years experienced numerous fire incidents, the worst being in June 2018 that claimed 15 people and burned property worth of millions at the Kwa mbao section.
The market fires have been known to be occurring almost annually since the 1980’s, and despite millions being lost there has been none or little compensation for the affected traders.
When the deadly 2018 fire occurred, Nairobi governor then Mike Sonko promised to form a team that would help investigate the cause of the fire but till now nothing has ever been heard of it.
“We want Nairobi to be a safe place to invest and live in ,we cannot allow our people to die in fire outbreaks , we must get a solution” he said this while visiting survivors of Gikomba fire at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
The frequent fires even caught the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta that he even once ordered probe into the Gikomba fires but none of his directives to stop future fires has ever been implemented.
“This incident has displaced traders all over Kenya, investigations should be launched to try and find the culprits and action taken against them,’ He said after the October 7, 2017 fire incident
These frequent fires and the reluctance by the government to take swift action on the perpetrators has compelled a section of the Gikomba traders to threaten to sue the Nairobi county government. The traders are demanding the county government to admit and even take responsibility for the frequent fire cases in the market.
Additionally, Fights over allocation of stalls in the newly built Gikomba market forced the Nairobi Metropolitan services NMS to postpone the unveiling of the 500 million shillings market by President Uhuru Kenyatta, with traders alleging bribery in the space allocations. This needs to be swiftly resolved as it is a way of protecting the traders from the frequent fires.
BY WEMA TOYWA #WEMA’STAKE