Gunshots, teargas on Limuru Rd as City Park Market traders protest

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – They painted a picture of desperation, resentment and frustration as they battled police officers who lobbed tear gas and fired in the air to disperse them.

Traders at City Park market were counting their losses after their market was burnt down on Thursday night, a day before their main trading day of the week.

“Where shall we go…why are they targeting the poor?” Mary Wanjiku, a vendor in the market, asked.

Just like many others in the five-acre market, Wanjiku had just bought her products the previous night and was sure of the ready market on Friday when hundred of Kenyans flock there to purchase various commodities.

The market is strategically located on the busy Limuru Road and is opposite Aga Khan Hospital; famous with its variety of food and fruits.

“My fruits were worth Sh270,000 and that money is from our market SACCO, how will I refund it?” a teary Wanjiku posed.

As a way of displaying their anger, the more than 3,000 traders barricaded Limuru Road and not even the tear gas from police or the gunshots fired in the air would move them.

“Kill us…we shall not move until Sonko (Nairobi Senator) comes and addresses us,” a section of the charged traders could be heard saying.

No one was spared as they decided to hurl stones at police officers, motorists and even journalists.

At one time, former Embakasi Member of Parliament Ferdinand Waititu joined the traders and addressed them resulting in calm, but for a short while.

He alleged that the mysterious fire was caused by people who want to grab the market.

“They shall not grab this market…I will report to the President that his people are being terrorised,” he stated amid cheers and ‘Baba Yetu’ chants.

Before he could finish his address, police officers lobbed tear gas worsening the situation.

Former Starehe Member of Parliament who also wanted to have a say over the matter at one time was forced to flee to safety after traders overwhelmed the police.

After the situation was calmed down, Wanjiru challenged Nairobi Governor to help the traders.

“It is the duty of Nairobi Governor to come and help you… where is he?” he posed. “It’s already midday and he is nowhere to be seen.”

Hours later, Kidero’s entourage arrived to a hostile reception with ‘Kidero Must Go’ chants renting the air.

Kidero was determined to assess the damage at the market and even alighted a few metres to the market and decided to walk, though under heavy cover of security personnel.

Just before he got into the market, he was distracted after a trader threw soil at him forcing his bodyguards to fire in the air.

The Governor left without assessing the damage or even addressing the traders.

“He is you’re a leader…you people don’t want to be helped,” a police officer irritated by the move was heard telling a group of vendors. “You should have given him time to assess and even talk to you. Who else do you want?”

In response and almost in unison, the vendors said: “we want Sonko…he has already boarded a chopper from Mombasa. We just want to hear from him and we shall go.”

The continued chanting ‘Kidero must go’ and went ahead to light bonfires on the road.

Police however managed to clear the road later after more police officers armed with teargas were brought in and dispersed the traders.

The road remained impassable for a better part of Friday.

The cause of the fire that broke out at about 10pm remains unknown but some of the hawkers claim it may have been sabotage.

“We had been given a notice that the market will be upgraded…we know this is a scheme to evict us from here,” a trader told Capital FM News.

“This has happened to three other markets in Nairobi. We shall not move…we have been here for more than 10 years.”

They have vowed to continue with the protests until their government compensate them and reconstructs the market.