By Ibrahim A. Issack and Adow Mohamed:
The dust has settled and there is semblance of sanity and order in the streets of Eastleigh after mall owners succeeded in their push to have hawkers moved from in front their premises.
The hawkers have achieved nothing protesting against the decision to lock them out.
Finding your way to and from Eastleigh was an uphill task before the standoff realized the past few days as hawkers used to position themselves spreading their goods on the roads blocking access to shops and sealing off the main highway.
But the streets are abuzz with stories of traders especially mothers whose source of livelihoods was cut short suddenly. But one question continues to be asked: How long will streets be free of the hawkers?
Aggrieved hawkers have been taking to the streets ever since the standoff with mall owners set in mid last week.
On Friday, the hawkers marched to City Hall after protesting along several streets and demanded to be addressed by Governor Evans Kidero.
But their protest to governor Kidero’s office bore no fruits and instead City Hall askaris and the Kenya Police demolished hawkers’ makeshift structures situated in front of all shopping malls and complexes overnight, where almost 20,000 street traders do business during the day.
This followed, after hawkers clashed with shop owners, the latter closed their businesses on Wednesday in protest at the hawkers menace accusing them of blocking the entrances to their shops as well as buildup of heaps of garbage near the well decorated shopping centers and undercut their prices as they do not pay tax.
Police are reportedly patrolling the suburb’s streets for fears that violent demonstrations could follow destruction of the stalls.
The dawaah program of inter-faith religions debate that is held in front of Eastleigh mall every evening has been halted by police patrolling the area due to the fear of criminals taking advantage of the crowds’ presence and engage in violence.
After a three day shutdown, business has resumed in the busy trading hub over the weekend and Monday with security personnel guarding them from hawkers who threatened to loot their shop if they found them open.
The traders who threatened to close their shops from Wednesday to Friday on weekly basis until the standoff is resolved have now a reason to smile as they enjoy their operation with the help of police presence while the hawkers who dared to rebuild their businesses were arrested by police officers and City Askaris.
The hawkers maintain that it’s unfair to evict them and criticized mall owners who closed their premises on Wednesday in protest against them.
Eastleigh Hawkers’ Association Chairman Haji Abdullahi accused the mall owners of insincerity and grabbing public land, leaving them with no option.
He alleged that most of the lands built on the malls are grabbed public lands. He claimed that Amal and Towhed malls are built on service lanes, Eastleigh Social Hall Mall on public land and Mandera Mall on a sewer line.
He added that they want front entrances cleared yet some of the malls are on service lanes where they could be stationed for our makeshift business.
“The hawkers will stay put and the temporary demolition of their structures will not deter them from going back to the Eastleigh streets to trade,” said Haji
He further said that it is unfair to blame hawkers for invading the streets and interfering shop owners with business in the area yet all available public land in the area has been grabbed by corrupt cartels.
Hawkers claimed that 90 per cent of them hail from Eastleigh and it would be wrong to entail that they have stormed the area, yet it’s the government to blame for the hawkers menace as they allocated their land to well-connected individuals rendering them homeless.
It is reported that hawkers were planning to have a big protest to storm shopping in Eastleigh on Tuesday.
They threatened that they will continue with their protest on weekly basis until they were allowed to continue with their trade in their makeshift locations or relocated to other areas.