Another day, another fire at Gikomba market

The fire broke out on Sunday night.

FILE PHOTO: Gikomba market on fire

A fire broke out yet again at the Gikomba Market in Nairobi destroying property and makeshift structures.

The fire broke out late Sunday evening and was only contained by residents and traders Monday morning.

The cause of the fire is yet to be known but property worth millions of shillings is said to have been destroyed.

Was the fire an arson attack?

The fire comes only days after the Milimani Environment and Lands court gave the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) green light to destroy a section of the largest second hand market in East and Central Africa.

NMS is planning to upgrade and equip Pumwani Majengo dispensary to a Level 3 facility. The plan is contained in the Nairobi County Annual Development Plan for the financial year ending June 30, 2023.

About 174 traders had moved to court to block NMS from interfering with their occupation pending a case hearing.

However, NMS argued that the area occupied by the traders is part of the hospital as they had encroached on the land that at the moment is marked for expansion of the health facility.

“As a result of the encroachment, they have not only blocked access to the health facility, but also the sewerage system that serves the hospital,” said Stephen Mwangi, NMS Deputy Director in Charge of Land.

Justice Oguttu Mboya said if the order would be granted it would also delay the right to universal healthcare that would be made available from the intended upgrade of Pumwani health centre.

"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," he said.

A continuous cycle

In August, another fire broke out at the market near Mololine. It razed four residential flats in the area.

The government has on many occasions promised to end the perennial fire breakouts in the area.

In June last year, the market’s cereals and second-hand clothing sections were burnt in suspected arson attacks.

On February 1 the same year, property of unknown value was reduced to ashes in yet another fire incident.

In 2019, Kenya’s largest open-air market went up in flames at least three times.

The government, after the August fire, said CCTV cameras will be set up around the market as a security measure to ensure that there is no human hand in the fire outbreaks.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho gave the directive while touring the market on August 6. He gave the contractor in charge of the installations seven days to complete the job.

“We will improve on the lighting, we have directed the regional team to map 10 lighting points and to those lights, we will add CCTV cameras,” PS Kibicho said.

Kibicho said accessibility into the market still remains a big challenge, especially during emergencies.

He said the government completed a new closed market in Gikomba and another one will be ready by June next year.

The new markets are expected to reduce the number of traders who have encroached on roads.

Kibicho had in June said the government was seeking to identify individuals believed to be behind the recurrent burning down of property at Gikomba market.

He said the government believed the incidents are not natural adding that a desk had been set up at the fifth floor of Nyayo House to probe all information and leads that could unmask the arsonists.

“We in government do not believe these fires are natural. We believe that there are some people who think that by displacing the business people here they will have an opportunity to develop this land on selfish grounds,” Kibicho said.

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