It was to be a critical road that would open up Nairobi’s Gikomba market, enabling easy access for thousands of customers and traders daily.
Quarry Road, whose work started in 2016, was part of a Sh4.5 billion programme by Kenya and the European Union to rehabilitate 17km of link roads in Nairobi. At the entry point – the junction of Quarry Road and Ring Road – engineers constructed a dual carriage way. By all standards, it was a good road that would benefit traders and customers.
But seven years and billions of shillings later, the road has never served its purpose.
“Even after being completed, this road did not help us because mechanics, matatus and other traders turned the road into parking lots, stalls and garages, blocking access to the market,” says Mr Bernard Gichuki, a representative of Gikomba traders.
Mr Gichuki told the Sunday Nation that even before the road was opened, some people had already grabbed it and started renting out spaces. Traders say the cartels collect rent from the operators monthly as law enforcers ignore the illegality.
One side of the dual carriage was completely blocked and is being used for business operations. Today, driving through Quarry Road is a messy affair that sometimes sees motorists taking more than two hours to move a mere 300 metres.
“When customers come and spend an hour to three hours in traffic, they will most likely not return,” Mr Gichuki said.
The traders, who pushed for the completion of the road when they sought a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2019, have had their hopes of booming business crushed, said Mr Gichuki. He added that not even seeking the help of senior government officials, including Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Nairobi Metropolitan Services Director Mohamed Badi has borne fruit.
Most of the street lights that had been erected to aid business operations at night were stolen, some are almost falling, while other parts of the road are filled with garbage.
“What could cause the government to spend a lot of money constructing such a road, yet the purpose of the construction has not been met?” posed Ms Gladys Gathoni.
The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) admitted it was aware of the situation, but not much action has been taken.
“We need reinforcement to remove the mechanics to enable the contractor connect the junction linking Ngara and Digo roads,” said David Mutuohoro, an engineer at Kura, in 2019.
Security agencies are reported to have issued notices for the rogue operators to vacate, but they have been ignored.
Traders said the road grab is also driving away banks that they have been partnering with over the years. A landlord he has received notices of vacation from two banks that were renting his premises.