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The curious case of rampant fire in Gikomba Market

Just what or who is behind the frequent fires that keep burning down Nairobi’s Gikomba Market? And to what end do such actions serve?

This is the question that remains unanswered after the latest incidemn6t of fire destroyed property worth millions of shillings on Friday morning at the open air market

Addressing the issue, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the authorities to bring to book those behind the fires.

“The incident has displaced many traders from all over the country and investigations should be launched to find the culprits and action be taken against them,” President Kenyatta said.

Shockingly, the Gikomba fires happen almost each year, the most recent ones being:

1. October 06, 2017 – Firefighters in Nairobi took hours to put out a huge fire that broke out at the open air market. The fire is said to have started at around 3am at the fish and groceries section. Nairobi County head of security Francis Munyambu deployed all the county fire engines but they were prohibited by congestion and inaccessibility.

2. June 23, 2015 – Again, goods worth millions of shillings were destroyed when fire burnt down stalls at the market. Several traders who took up the brave act to rescue their properties, were injured in the incident. Then Nairobi Police Commander Benson Kibue hinted that the fire could have been as caused by business rivals in the market.

3. October 16, 2014 – Another date, yet another fire. This incident left several stalls razed and properties destroyed in a 10pm incident. Traders later complained to the media about the delay in arrival of the emergency services, saying the county government must improve on its response to disasters.

4. March 18, 2014 – Property and goods of unknown value was destroyed by a huge night fire at the Gikomba market, near Shauri Moyo lower bridge. The fire started at around 8pm and razed a large section of the market.

An elderly woman operating a stall at this market collapsed after her 14-year investment at the place was razed down by yet another fire. In total, property worth millions of shillings was destroyed at the market.

5. March 13, 2012 – Same old story. Hundreds of market traders lost a fortune following a night fire whose cause was not made public.

“It’s unfortunate to be losing property whose worth is more than Sh10 million, just like that. I don’t know what to say and I still don’t know how it all started,” Norman Mwanga, a trader told Daily Nation at the time.

6. September 08, 2010 – An afternoon fire raged for three-hours as city council firefighters struggled to fight it but their work was hampered by inaccessibility in the overcrowded market. Then Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu decried the difficulty of fighting disasters saying the firefighters faced difficulties accessing waters.