Standoff at City Market as stall owners and hawkers fight for space
Normal business at Nairobi’s City Market was on Monday disrupted following a dispute between stall owners and hawkers who operate at the market without shops.
This follows the closure of shops and stalls in the busy market by traders owning the premises protesting the return of the other traders who do not have stalls at the market.
What started off as a simple boycott by shop owners in the morning soon degenerated into a full blown argument and exchange of words between the traders with each side claiming space in the busy meat market.
The feud continued for the better part of the day with the stall owners vowing to continue closing their chops until the issue is sorted out and status quo restored.
On the other hand, the other traders continued operating despite their colleague’s protest, insisting that they have a right to be at the market claiming that they had been allowed to return by the county government.
Speaking to the Daily Nation, one of the stall owners, Kamundia Mathenge, said that the impasse has been caused by the return of the other traders to the market on Saturday after more than a year since they left after being removed from the market over health concerns.
“There has been an outstanding cleanup issue aimed at making the market organized. This resulted in the hawkers leaving more than a year ago but they are now back. We want to know who made the decision to allow them back,” Mathenge said.
Mr Mathenge, owner of Kamundia Butchery, complained that it was unfair for them to operate on equal footing with the hawkers who do not pay any license to Nairobi County yet they incur a lot of costs running into millions of shillings annually to City Hall operating the stalls.
“They only pay a daily fee of Sh50 to the City Hall while we as the shop owners are ‘dying’ from heavy bills,” he said.
His assertions were echoed by another trader, Duncan Kamau, who said that he pays more than Sh1 million every year to City Hall for rent, electricity bills, licenses, and health inspections, among other charges.
“In any given month, I pay Sh12,500 for rent, Sh50,000 for electricity bills; in addition to health and food permit of Sh5,000 annually, Sh26,500 annual license fee, fire safety fee of Sh4,500 per year, and Halal permit at Sh40,000 per year. This totals to more than Sh1.5 million for my shop every year,” Kamau said.
However, in their defense, the hawkers, led by Titus Odhiambo, blamed the standoff on limited space at the market with traders increasing every day forcing others to sell their products in front of the shops.
Mr Odhiambo said that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko last Friday endorsed their return, adding that they also pay fees to the county where for every basket of fish they pay between Sh300 and Sh500, depending on size of fish and up to Sh1,000 for a sack of chicken.
“We will not move. We all have a right to be here just like the shop owners. Some of us have been operating their business at the market for more than 30 years. We also pay Sh50 every day for each stand,” said the trader who was flanked by his colleagues.
The fight for space between shop owners and hawkers at City Market, which was built in 1930, has been a recurring issue over the past years stretching to previous administrations, including the previous city council regime.
The market is well known for its fish markets, which sells rare species such as cod and mackerel as well as more common species such as Tilapia and Nile Perch.