ELDORET, KENYA: The increasing population and business expansion in Eldoret continues to pose a challenge to the town’s planning. The county government is having a difficult time settling vendors in designated trade areas. The most common challenge has been to restore sanity and order in operation of businesses as hawkers continue to flock the town’s central business district (CBD) – inconveniencing other businesses. Uasin Gishu County leaders have reiterated the need to restructure the CBD, citing hawkers as major contributors to congestion. The devolved unit has not achieved effective revenue collection from businesses. “The county has been consistently embracing new structures to decongest the CBD and ensure all businessmen attain a fair playing ground but the hawkers have been resisting change. “They have remained a menace to other business people,” Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno told The Standard. According to Mr Chemno, the county will prioritise relocation of small-scale traders to new market premises established by the county in its endeavours to restructure the CBD. However, the on and off conflict that began in 2013 after the devolved system of governance came into force escalated last week after some hawkers were involved in violent confrontations with the authorities. A video circulated on social media showed county enforcement officials and police officers beating a person alleged to be a hawker in an operation to flush vendors out of restricted trading areas. The hawkers’ representative David Mburu Waweru, however, differed with Chemno’s claims that they had refused to relocate to a new market, saying the county had failed to provide space for small scale vendors. Officer stabbed Commenting on the video clip, Chemno said county askaris and police did not hurt any hawker, adding that they only defended themselves after they were confronted by individuals trading in illicit liquor, bhang and other drugs. “The county built a hawkers’ market worth Sh150 million but individuals that are trading along streets where it is not permitted refused to relocate to this designated space. Our officers were rightfully evicting them but some illegal drug dealers confronted them and even stabbed one of our officers,” said Chemno. The deputy governor denied claims that the county was allocating market stalls to individuals from one community, saying all businessmen were being treated equally. “The hawkers that are on the streets are causing unnecessary congestion and inconveniencing other traders that have paid for licences to operate yet they don’t contribute to the revenue of the county,” he said. According to Chemno, the county had allocated Sh6.5 million to Wareng Heritage, EldoHawk and Uasin Gishu Hawkers Associations that constitute members from all communities to enable them grow their businesses. “The hawkers are being incited by one MCA with selfish interests but we will not be intimidated. “Those leaders speaking from 160 kilometres away should focus on their affairs. We are not an extension of their county and cannot be micromanaged,” said Chemno. He was speaking in an apparent response to Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui’s remarks that Uasin Gishu was discriminating against traders of one community. But Mr Mburu disputed Chemno’s remarks saying individuals hurt during confrontations with reinforcement officers and police were not illicit brews dealers. “Honestly the market space here hosts a mere 311 stalls yet we have over 5,000 hawkers making many traders to go to the streets. There is no empty space that we have refused to relocate to,” said Mburu. He accused the county administration of discrimination while awarding spaces in the market, adding that it was intentionally targeting a group that had no stalls. He argued that hawkers needed to be allowed to sell their merchandise during the evening rush hours since the market was fully occupied. “There is no space at all and the deputy governor just showed areas owned by green maize sellers whose trade is out of season at the moment. Most of the stalls were taken over by county officials who are leasing them to their cronies,” said Mburu. Bribery claim Susan Atieno, a hawker, told The Standard that it was difficult for someone without connections in the county administration to get space in the market designed for hawkers. “This establishment is branded the Eldoret Hawkers’ Market but most spaces are let out to people who are not hawkers but are linked to county officials, we have no place to trade and that is why we use the streets. The county should allow us several hours a day especially in the evening to sell,” she said. Elphan Oliech accused county law enforcement officers of taking bribes to allow some hawkers do business.
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