Sakaja must act now on Gikomba Market infernos

Gikomba market fire

Traders salvage their stock after fire razed part of the Gikomba market on August 6, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Yesterday, yet another mysterious fire at Gikomba Market destroyed property whose worth was yet to be known by press time. The market has recorded at least one such inferno every year over the past 12 years except in 2011, 2013 and 2016, with the first case reported in 1980.

A few years ago, then-President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a directive for investigations into the endless fires to be conducted but nothing was done. The market is still suffering fires. 

It is unfortunate that, to date, there has been no tangible reason behind the fires—except speculation and many stories. Most of these link the fire incidents to land disputes.

Over the years, the Mitumba Consortium Association of Kenya (MCAK) and Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) have complained to the national and county governments to act.

Just like the garbage menace in the capital city, the fires plaguing Gikomba Market should be the top items in Governor Johnson Sakaja’s ‘To Do’ list. 

First, the traders have been complaining about the late response by firefighters. But the firemen also lament poor road infrastructure and congestion, which they blame for their delay.

Secondly, the installation of CCTV cameras would make it easy to determine the cause of the fire as some traders have blamed arsonists for the incidents.

Thirdly, and most importantly, prevent the easy spreading of the fire. These include constructing perimeter walls, installing floodlights and fire alarms and placing extinguishers at easily accessible points. Also, educate the public about fighting and preventing fire safely.

For years, the market has been a source of livelihood for many traders, artisans, transporters and others doing an honest job. But the multi-billion-shilling businesses have often been converted to ashes, causing huge losses. 

The authorities must now act firmly to end the fires. Both the public and private sectors ought to play a role to see this crisis come to an end.

Mr Wafula is a media and communication student at Rongo University. [email protected]

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