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Inside Sakaja’s chaotic Nairobi’s CBD

By Winnie Onyando September 17th, 2023 2 min read

As the sun sets over Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD), a captivating yet chaotic transformation takes place.

The bustling streets have become a battleground of sorts, as hawkers converge, narrowing the already limited pathways for pedestrians.

Navigating through the CBD in the evening is akin to wading through a sea of hawkers selling their wares, tagging potential customers, and shouting the prices in a bid to grab attention.

The situation escalates as these hawkers suddenly swiftly pack up their merchandise and disappear without warning on the sight of county askaris, leaving potential buyers bewildered and empty-handed.

While Kenyan authorities emphasize the importance of proper identification, many local government officers prefer to operate incognito, further complicating matters for business vendors.

The ongoing cat-and-mouse games between the hawkers and city law enforcement officers are a regular occurrence, as the askaris attempt to apprehend them for trading in prohibited areas.

The presence of makeshift stalls erected within the CBD adds to the complex tapestry of this bustling city.

All of these factors contribute to the CBD’s evening transformation into a bustling and, at times, chaotic space.

The issue of hawkers within the CBD has been a persistent challenge over the years, with efforts by successive Nairobi administrations falling short of finding a lasting solution.

However, the question remains: Will Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja bring order to this situation?

Just a few weeks ago, Sakaja made a noteworthy statement, declaring that hawkers within the city are here to stay.

This declaration seems to contradict his earlier aspirations of creating a city known for its dignity and organization.

During a recent interview, the county boss defended the presence of hawkers in the city’s CBD, drawing parallels between them and office workers. He emphasized that both groups are striving to secure a livelihood for their families.

“There is someone who may criticize hawkers while donning a suit at work to provide for his children. But when he encounters minor challenges accessing public transportation, he may advocate for the removal of these hawkers,” Sakaja remarked.

Nairobians are eagerly awaiting to see whether Governor Sakaja can devise a sustainable solution to the hawking conundrum within the CBD, striking a balance between order and the livelihoods of countless individuals who depend on this bustling city for their sustenance.

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