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Johnson Sakaja’s headache as hawkers invade Nairobi

Nairobi County is yet to stumble on a strategy that will keep small traders (hawkers) from the Central Business District (CBD).

In 2022, City Hall said 15,000 hawkers are in Nairobi, out of which 3,000 are operating within CBD, with the number growing daily.

In 2017, former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko managed to bar hawkers from CBD and were allowed to sell their products in town from 2 pm.

“To ensure a harmonious relationship between the city county and the hawkers, there will be no hawking in front of shops before 2pm, no hawking on both sides of the road. The paths are available for pedestrians and no hawking beyond Tom Mboya Street,” Mr Sonko said in 2017.

But the move was not effective since the city inspectorates, well known as kanjos, were seen across the CBD chasing hawkers from different streets.

After the former governor vacated office following an impeachment motion in 2020, hawkers are back in town, invading major streets which are busy during morning and evening hours.

The Nairobi News went across major streets within CBD to access the situation of hawkers’ invasion in public places.

The busy Archives area, where most of the residents take time to sit around relaxing is now almost inaccessible from noon time.

Hawkers are all over the place selling their items ranging from food commodities to clothes, and utensils without any fear of being chased away by the kanjos.

The residents using the area to connect to their different routes are now being forced to walk around with a lot of cautiousness, some finding themselves in exchange of words with hawkers for stepping on their items.

Tom Mboya Street is another messy area to walk around during the evening as hawkers have fully invaded pedestrians’ sidewalks and walkways.

Kimathi Street has also been affected as hawkers spread to sell their commodities to Nation Media even as kanjos patrol around with their old rusty vehicles.

Moi Avenue is the worst place to walk around in the evening as pedestrians collide with hawkers and kamagera (touts who help the conductor fill the vehicle).

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja has promised to make Nairobi a clean city of order by fixing the matatu and hawkers’ mess.

However, six months since he assumed office, the governor is still strategizing how to solve the issue of hawkers by moving them to the back streets.

The county has moved a step forward by painting some lanes within the town which will be the selling point for hawkers.

The county said the painted lanes will be fixed with security lights and will be assigned to different people who have been hawking around the area.

“Sasa hapa tunapelekwa kufanya nini na hakuna watu? Tutauzia nani? Sisis tunataka penye watu wako,” one of the hawkers told Nairobi News in reaction to the move.

Also, security in some of the lanes has become a matter of concern to hawkers as governor Sakaja’s administration plans to stop them from CBD.

Whether the governor will succeed is a matter of wait and see.

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