NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 23 – A standoff ensued at Nairobi’s City Market on Tuesday afternoon as meat hawkers in the market engaged in a scuffle with county askaris who moved to evict them from the premises in a bid to protect traders with stall at the popular meat market.
The hawkers resisted the move as they questioned the motive behind their ejection citing a recent directive by Governor Mike Sonko allowing them to sell their products at the market.
Sonko’s decision to allow the hawkers trade at the market had attracted fierce criticism from stall owners who said they had been disenfranchised.
“The Governor himself said we do business here, why are they evicting us?” said one hawker.
The hawkers wondered why the Governor retreated on his earlier directive allowing them to operate from there.
They also claimed that no notice was served prior to the eviction.
“Let the Governor himself come and tell us that, he is the one who allowed us here!” a hawker protested.
“We have bills to pay, how can they evict us at this time of the month? This is unfair.”
City Hall Operations Director Eva Wairiuko however said the county askaris were acting on Sonko’s orders to have the hawkers removed from the market following public health concerns.
The Tuesday operation came barely a month after the hawkers and traders clashed over market space, with traders announcing an indefinite shutdown of their premises to protest the invasion of their space by hawkers.
The stall owners accused hawkers of spreading their goods in front of their premises thereby obstructing access by their customers, subjecting their businesses to unfair competition.
Stall owners pay Sh100,000 annually in rates to Nairobi County, while the hawkers only part with Sh50 daily.
According to City Hall, Tuesday’s eviction was prompted by numerous complaints from members of the public who expressed concerns over safety of the meat sold to them by the hawkers.
The complaints, according to City Hall, ranged from the lack of requisite medical permits by the hawkers to the sale of uninspected meat.
The concerns came against the backdrop of reports of unregulated use of preservatives such as sodium metabisulphite to elongate the shelf life of meat products.
Some of the hawkers who spoke to Capital FM News early this month, said they are in the business legally since they pay Sh50 everyday to the County government, adding that they have the necessary licenses.
“We pay taxes and we have complied with all the requirements including obtaining a health certificate, we are doing legal business,” a representative of the hawkers said on July 9.