- Since the re-election of Governor Jackson Mandago in August last year, the county has been on the hawkers’ case.
- Mr Mandago’s government accuses hawkers of crowding the streets and lately, of perpetrating petty crimes, and has vowed to kick them out.
- The county hawkers’ chairperson, Mr David Waweru, says the markets were not enough to accommodate the more than 6,000 hawkers in the county.
A brutal scuffle between Uasin Gishu county enforcement officers and hawkers in Eldoret town last week that led to dozens being injured has quickly mutated into a dicey political affair.
Since the re-election of Governor Jackson Mandago in August last year, the county has been on the hawkers’ case.
Mr Mandago’s government accuses hawkers of crowding the streets and lately, of perpetrating petty crimes, and has vowed to kick them out.
However, the brawl between the two sides did not start recently.
During the campaigns ahead of the elections, the hawkers were often violently evicted from the streets by county askaris in a move that was labelled politically motivated by the governor’s opponents.
The routine evictions became more vicious after hawkers declared their support for one of Mr Mandago’s closest competitors, Mr Zedekiah Bundotich Buzeki.
Last week’s brutal incident on a street next to the town’s main market, which was captured on video by some residents and posted on social media, was the latest indication of the bad blood between the two sides.
Despite the outcry generated by the incident, the county has vowed not to relent in pushing out the hawkers, saying they were making the town dirty and unattractive to potential investors.
According to the county government, kicking out hawkers was the only way to restructure the town’s central business district (CBD).
Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno dismissed claims that the county government was profiling hawkers from certain communities.
He said that regular operations by the county inspectorate team and other security agencies were aimed at flushing out bad elements engaging in illegal activities, including selling of illicit brews and bhang.
He said the county had built two markets in Kahoya and Eldoret West, where the hawkers ought to operate from.
“Let them know that our decision to remove hawkers from the town streets is unstoppable. What was the meaning of setting up a multi-million market from which we cannot raise any revenues because hawkers have avoided it and resorted to selling their wares on roadsides, causing inconvenience to motorists?” asked Mr Chemno.
But the hawkers say the two markets are far from town, and, therefore, difficult for them to get customers.
The county hawkers’ chairperson, Mr David Waweru, says the markets were not enough to accommodate the more than 6,000 hawkers in the county.
“These markets are far away from the CBD; that is the reason most of the hawkers are not comfortable using them ... they are located far away from their customers,” said Mr Waweru.
A hawker, Ms Jane Atieno, accused the regional government of allowing the inspectorate officers and other security agencies to use excessive force on the traders.
“The Constitution is very clear that every citizen has a right to work and live anywhere. We cannot engage in illegal activities because we have children to take care of. We want to be allowed to work freely,” said Ms Atieno.