Corona Market Kisumu

Fresh produce and cereals traders from Kibuye Market at the newly identified site at parking area of Moi stadium in Kisumu. The new location, which has hosted the traders for nearly two years, has acquired the name Corona Market.

| File | Nation Media Group

Kisumu residents' gallows humour and rise of ‘Corona Market’

The world over, people and places are often named after seasons, occurrences, and individuals who have positively impacted society.

But in Kisumu, a rare pattern is slowly emerging – places are being named after infamous occurrences such as disasters and for regions embroiled in wars.

The ill-famed Kondele tops the list.

Several chill-out spots for matatu crews, commonly referred to as 'bases', have adopted names that would send shivers down the spine.

One of them is Darfur, named for a region in western Sudan that has been racked by tribal clashes for years. The killings of ethnic Darfuris in ongoing conflicts were described as the first genocide of the 21st century.

Another, Baragoi, named for the treacherous Suguta Valley in northern Kenya where, in November 2012, over 40 police reservists were ruthlessly killed as they pursued cattle thieves.

Remember Babu Wa Loliondo?

Yes, the Tanzanian self-proclaimed miracle healer who, in 2010, drew millions of people to the small town of Loliondo to partake of his controversial concoction that supposedly cured several diseases. He died in July 2021. One of the bases is now named Babu.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, traders at the famed open-air market of Kibuye, one of the largest in the region, were relocated to a new space to allow for its planned expansion.

The open parking space outside Moi Stadium, their new location, has hosted the traders for nearly two years and has acquired the name Corona Market.

The chairperson of the market, Ms Judith Adhiambo, said a quarter of the traders who moved from Kibuye settled there.

Ms Adhiambo said that naming places after seasons or historic events is still a common practice among the Luo community.

“The market space was allocated to us by Governor Anyang’ Nyong'o. We had to find a name and due to the circumstances surrounding its establishment amid the pandemic, we came up with the name Corona,” she said.

The market has food and clothes stalls stretching to the city’s major garbage disposal site, the infamous Kachok dumpsite.

The stench from the dumpsite, lack of proper storage facilities and the hot sun are some of the challenges the traders now face.

The first attempt to expand the market was made by the first Kisumu governor, Jack Ranguma, back in 2015.

But the idea did not materialise until Covid-19 hit.

As a result, the traders moved to various parts of the city, including Nyamasaria, Otonglo, areas next to Winners Chapel and Kibuye, while others relocated next to the Moi sports ground.

Ms Adhiambo, who has been an active trader at the Kibuye market for the last six years, said their sales had greatly reduced since.

"The relocation had quite a number of negative impacts on us. We lost our customers, leading to lower sales," she said.

Moses Ochieng, who sells second-hand clothes at the Corona Market, said the relocation was a major blow to hundreds of business enterprises.

"The stinking smell coming from the garbage is a major turn-off for our customers, who often leave before buying anything from us," he said.

"Back in Kibuye, I would make not less than Sh40,000 per month but this has now been reduced to a quarter of the normal sales."

He also said that the open air market has exposed them to street urchins who go to the dumpsite in search of food. Some of them, he said, steal from the traders.

He also said that during heavy rains, their goods are damaged or swept away by raging waters due to the poor drainage systems.

"I am hoping that the construction is completed by April so we can get back to our previous trading centres. We have completely lost touch with our former customers,” said Ms Nancy Adongo, another trader.

On February 1, 2022, Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathew Owili led the groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of the market.

The first phase ended in February and cost Sh315 million and is expected to host 2,000 traders. Phase two, Dr Owili said, is expected to cost Sh185 million and will host another 1,500 traders.

“The second phase of construction will be completed by the end of April 2022,” he said. Upon completion, the modern market will have a boundary wall with secure entry and exit gates, neatly arranged stalls with places for nursing mothers.