Today as we write youths are battling with police in the city centre. Upper Town is a no go zone now and down town shops have been closed for most of this morning. Mungiki is calling for the release of Miana their jailled leader and hawkers are protesting against local government.
Kenya: Hawkers Refuse to Move Out
The Nation (Nairobi)
5 March 2008
Posted to the web 4 March 2008
Odhiambo Orlale And Oliver Mathenge
Riot police had a hectic time Tuesday dispersing scores of defiant hawkers from Nairobi’s streets ahead of a government deadline to move them to a new market.
The hawkers were tear-gassed and blocked from marching to Jogoo House, which houses the office of Local Government Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
The street traders were demanding to have an audience with Mr Kenyatta over his deadline to leave the central business district today or be evicted.
Mr Kenyatta has ordered all the hawkers to move to the newly-built Sh700 million Muthurwa Hawkers Market, off Landhies Road, opposite the Country Bus Station by the end of today.
Armed police surrounded the hawkers as they marched along Harambee Avenue towards Jogoo House, and lobbed tear gas canisters to disperse them.
The parking lot between Jogoo House and Electricity House was turned into a battle zone as the police engaged the hawkers in running battles.
The hawkers claim that the new market can not accommodate them all.
Before the campaign period for last December’s elections, City Hall had managed to rid the streets of the hawkers.
However, they were allowed back in what was seen as an attempt by the Party of National Unity to win their votes.
Meanwhile, controversy surrounds another attempt by City Hall to ease traffic congestion in the centre of town. Last week, the council directed that public service vehicles be barred from Nairobi’s central business district. However, matatu operators claimed Tuesday that the directive exempts some operators.
Though Transport PS Gerishon Ikiara insisted that the directive must be enforced, he was not sure if it will affect all PSV operators or just matatus.
Mr Ikiara, who was speaking at Transcom House, said the directive was not “meant to punish anyone”.
City Engineer Charles Chiuri said the order would affect all operators including those who are licensed to enter the CBD.
But matatu operators who were at the press briefing said they had established that the move would only block some of the PSVs, adding that even the traffic department was unaware of the directive.
Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai and his Matatu Welfare counterpart Dickson Mbugua said they would not tolerate a directive that gave an unfair advantage to some players.
“A lot of matatus ply the Eastlands route and we are sure that the Muthurwa terminus cannot accommodate all of them,” said Mr Kimutai.
The two officials also accused the Traffic Licensing Board of not issuing licences properly.
They said that the CBD should remain a transit point for PSVs and the licensing body should grant licences that allow the vehicles to move across the city.
The current licensing of PSVs allows operators to concentrate on a particular route to and from the city centre, which causes traffic snarl-ups, they claimed.
City Hall issued a directive last week requiring PSVs entering the city from Jogoo and Lusaka roads to pick up and drop off passengers at Muthurwa.
But the directive has put the council and matatu operators on a collision course after it emerged that it would not affect KBS, Citi Hoppa and Express Connections.
PS Ikiara defended the decision, saying that all cities globally allow a limited number of public service vehicles to enter the CBD. He said a meeting between all stakeholders was necessary to review the situation.
He added that the Muthurwa market and terminus were government pilot projects aimed at decongesting all the major cities and towns in the country. He said that the terminus would operate on a 24-hour basis, which he said, would benefit everyone.