Business unusual as campaigns invade city


Nairobi City is being swamped by an increasing tide of lawlessness as hawkers; boda bodas, matatus and garbage take over the streets ahead of polls.

Consequently, the menace is piling pressure on the county government’s ability to enforce laws amid impending elections.

In a situation similar to the 2013 General Election, there is overcrowding, disruption of businesses and obstruction to traffic as politicians canvassing for votes hit the capital forcing everything else to take a break.

At the heart of the matter are the different political contests which have turned the capital into a nerve centre of rallies.

It seems there is political activity on almost every corner, which is severely affecting some sectors of the capital’s economy.

Competing for space

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For instance, some streets West of Moi Avenue, which are traditionally no-go zones for hawkers, have been turned into mini-markets.

A spot-check by Sunday Standard reveals mayhem. Most sections along Kimathi Street, Tubman road and Mama Ngina Street, pedestrians are competing for space with hawkers who spread their wares on the pavements.

Stall owners have lamented that the chaos are making it difficult for them to get clients.

They now wish for the elections to be over so that sanity is restored in the city.

“Just look outside here, matatus are parked up to the pavement and the little space left is occupied by hawkers. There isn’t enough space even to walk,” lamented Penina Waithera who runs a stall on Moi Avenue.

“It is unfair that we pay taxes to operate here then hawkers with wares spread on pavements hence blocking access to shops and stalls,” said Maxwell Muriithi, another stall owner.

And matatus notorious for flouting rules are increasingly getting bolder, picking up and dropping passengers at undesignated areas. Taxi and boda boda on the other hand have turned almost every parking slot into a rank.

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An ambitious plan to ban Public Service Vehicles which was mooted last month has been quietly shelved after an outcry by the Matatu Owners Association (MOA).

The plan would have seen the creation of 36 intercity routes to replace the current system where matatus line up in town waiting for passengers.

MOA Chairman Simon Kimutai has disputed claims that matatus are taking advantage of a lax in enforcement of by-laws in order to clog the streets. He says it would be impractical to roll out any policy without involving them.

“Everybody would want clear streets because we lose a lot of money due to traffic snarl ups. Nairobi belongs to all of us. Any policies formulated without involving all stake holders will not work,” he said.

But it is not just Nairobi. A number of county governments have relaxed enforcement of their bylaws.

Last month, Machakos cancelled all levies for small businesses including hawkers; a move observers argued was more of a political gesture than an economic one.

And in Mombasa, the county government allowed traders back to Buxton Stage after it had demolished their structures.

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Nairobi County Secretary Robert Ayisi said they had already identified places to move the hawkers in Ruai, Eastleigh, Dandora, Muthurwa and Wakulima markets.

A suit challenging the removal of hawkers from the streets was in November last year quashed by the courts paving way for their relocation.

“We have already initiated talks with the traders on how the relocation exercise will be done since it will be gradual,” he said.

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