Danger lurks in roads, parks turned into trading stalls

Traders sell their wares on the road at Daraja Mbili market in Kisii town on Thursday. The situation has exposed traders and buyers to accidents. [Photo: Sammy Omingo, Standard]

A matatu screeches to a halt, missing two women traders by a whisker. They scream and curse but quickly return to their seats at Oile roadside market along Angawa Street in Kisumu town.

Dusk is quickly setting in and the makeshift market is full to capacity. Women, returning from work, flock here to buy vegetables and fish. To do a transaction, you stand right on the road because the market is itself part of the busy road.

The market was illegally relocated to the roadside since city officials violently shut Oile market and turned it into a recreation park two years ago.

Just like the daredevil traders, buyers have on many occasions risked their lives because they have to stand at the edge of the busy street to do transactions.

Last month, a woman was hit and injured by a matatu whose driver could not negotiate the nearby roundabout. A few metres away, more danger lurks at the bus park where traders sit everywhere, dangerously exposing themselves to accidents.

The market becomes active from 6.30pm and security officials warn that it is a ticking time bomb.

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Other than in Kisumu’s Oile market, traders and customers also court death every day in Oyugis market in Homa Bay County and Daraja Mbili in Kisii.

Daraja Mbili is one huge mess, especially on market days, with traders seated on loosely hanging embankments and buyers meandering their ways in between many matatus.

No alternative

On Thursdays, the market day, hundreds of boda boda taxis and an endless flow of vehicles compete with traders. Traders spread their ware on the road, forcing motorists to meander through.

“We have no alternative. I better risk my life if that is what will put food on the table for my family,” says David Mogere, a hawker.

In Oyugis, the main street passing through the township doubles up as the market and traders sit with half of their bodies on the tarmac.

An official of the Oyugis Traders Association, Martin Ouko, says the situation had been worsened by the closure of the main bus terminus for renovation.

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“The situation in Oyugis is bad because all those who had stalls at the bus park have now moved to the road. Many of these people are alive by the grace of God,” says Ouko.

 In Kisumu’s makeshift market, the many matatus and three–wheeler tuk tuks often swerve dangerously as their drivers try to avoid hitting the traders.

“I don’t care much. I have nowhere to sell my fish, so I will just put them here. Let the drivers hit me if they like. What will my three children eat if I don’t risk my life for them?” says a middle-aged fish monger who only gave her name as “Nyar Kendu” (the daughter of Kendu).

Nyar Kendu sits on the edge of the tarmac on the street overlooking Oile market every day from 6pm as she waits for buyers returning from work.

In flagrant disregard of traffic rules, tuk tuks dangerously make wrong turns at the roundabout and stop in the middle of the road to pick or drop passengers.

About two weeks ago, a woman was knocked and injured by a matatu, less than a week after a street boy was crushed to death by a trailer negotiating the roundabout.

Most of the traders here claim they are the victims of the September 2014 reclamation of the Oile Park, where an illegal market had thrived for close to a decade.

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Bob Omondi sells mitumba shoes at the roadside market. He says the spot is perfect for brisk business.

“I set up at about 5pm when people are leaving work, so many of them buy on impulse. Business is good,” he says. He says he moved to the spot from Kibuye market because “I saw an opportunity to make a killing from the big footfall”. He says the county collects taxes from him so he sees nothing wrong with it.

Unfair competition

Caren Achieng’ sells fried fish at the illegal market. She is alive to the danger she puts herself in but says she risks it because it presents unfair competition to her business at the Jubilee market, barely 20 metres away.

“No one will see good fish here and still walk into the market when they can just pick it on their way home,” she says.

Achieng’ says she is one of the traders who were evicted from the park by the city management with a promise to relocate them.

“The city management squeezed us into the Jubilee market, some people like me were allocated space in the back lines where customers hardly reached,” she says.

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