Hope for traders as Kenya Railways installs containers at disputed Karatina site
The Kenya Railways Corporation has started installing hundreds of container stalls on land from which about 2,000 traders were evicted in Karatina, Nyeri County, two years ago.
This is happening even as the affected traders said they had changed their mind about going back to the former site.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua had pledged during campaigns to resettle the traders if Dr Wlliam Ruto was elected President.
Last week, Mathira MP Eric Mwangi Wamumbi convened a consultative meeting with the traders, who unanimously declined the resettlement plan. They instead asked Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga to build for them a permanent and modern market at the new site where they relocated.
They expressed fears that if they vacate the three-acre site, unscrupulous individuals could grab it.
Speaker after speaker claimed they were apprehensive about their future at the railway land. There were some acrimonious moments when some individuals attempted to support returning to the railway land but were shouted down.
The traders asked Mr Wamumbi to work with the county and the national government and build a new market for them.
The traders were evicted from the railway land and their structures demolished, drawing the wrath of Mr Gachagua, who claimed when he addressed the traders at the site that some unidentified “powers” had instigated the demolitions in a bid to undermine him politically.
The issue also became a campaign tool when former Nyeri senator Ephraim Maina also came to the defence of the traders and urged them to stay put.
In the run-up to the August elections, Mr Gachagua condemned the demolitions, warning that “payback” time was coming for those who “tormented” ordinary Kenyans by denying them their livelihoods.
He promised the evictees that the ‘hustlers’ government' would resettle them at the same site once they took power.
Throughout last week, Kenya Railways employees were busy offloading containers that will be placed at various points along the railway line in Karatina.
A worker, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to talk to the media on behalf of the railway company, said the containers will be partitioned into small compartments and rented out to traders at subsidised rates.
After Dr Ruto and Mr Gachagua were declared winners of the presidential election last month, a group of about 100 people shouting “freedom is here” invaded the railway land and tried to demarcate it by erecting beacons.
But Karatina police, led by the local police boss Benjamin Rotich, thwarted their efforts.