Gikomba Market up in flames days after eviction notice

Gikomba traders sue Nairobi County, demand Ksh.20 billion compensation over perennial fires

Traders are counting losses after a new fire broke out in Gikomba Market in Nairobi two days after court allowed the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) to evict a section of traders.

The fire which broke out in the wee hours of Monday morning, engulfed several stalls in the market leading to huge losses.

According to local traders at the market, the burnt stalls belonged to some 174 traders facing eviction by NMS.

The cause of the fire remains unclear at the moment.

Fire breakouts at Kenya’s largest public market is not new, with the Monday one being fourth incident in two months.

On August 30 this year, Gikomba traders sued the Nairobi County government and demanded Ksh.20 billion in compensation over perennial fires at the market.

Over 900 traders petitioned the County to pay them for direct financial loss and compensation for the loss of their so-hard established businesses.

Their petition dates back to 2015 when at least 15 fire incidences have been reported at a busy market in Nairobi’s outskirts.

Their lawyer Adrian Kamotho said every attempt the traders have made to rebuild their business has always been dealt further devastation by recurrent infernos.

They are accusing Nairobi County of breach of duty and refutation of the obligation by failing to put in place a suitable business continuity plan to sustain the business environment at Gikomba Market, affecting the performance of the overall economy.

They said the fires occur despite their remission of levies, rates, license fees among other charges collected by the government.

“The Plaintiffs are at a loss as to why the Defendant would act so negligently, in breach of contractual and legal duty,” Mr Kamotho said.

On November 6, NMS received court’s nod to evict a section of traders dealing with secondhand clothes within Gikomba to pave way for expansion of the neighbouring Pumwani Majengo Health Centre.

Justice Oguttu Mboya said granting the traders’ request for an order to stop the looming eviction and demolition of business structures would militate against the public good.

The judge noted that the traders’ right to earn a living must not constitute a fetter to the NMS’ rights to expand and upgrade the Health Center into Level Three Hospital.

“Whereas I affirm their rights to earn a living and livelihood, it must however be noted that the petitioner’s rights to do so are not absolute.

“In this regard, it suffices to observe that the right to earn a living and carry on business is one which is subject to the Limitation under Article 25 of the Constitution,” Mboya ruled.

The 174 traders operating at Gacucu Gikomba open air market wanted court to stop NMS from threatening or interfering with their occupation of the land pending hearing of their case.

Led by Mr Francis Kimathi Mutisya, they informed the court that they have conducted the said business in the said market for over 40 years.

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Lawrence Baraza is a prolific writer with competencies in Digital Media, Print, and Broadcast. Baraza is also a Communication Practitioner currently spearheading Digital content on Metropol TV's Digital Desk.

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