Address the Gikomba fires once and for all

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 00:00 |

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After the latest fire incident at Gikomba market in Nairobi recently, the government set up a command centre at Nyayo House and encouraged Kenyans to volunteer information that might help unravel the frequent arson attacks. 

The move was certainly a step in the right direction and it gave hope to thousands of traders who eke a living from the business of second-hand clothes and others that have made the market the nerve centre of the country’s SME initiative.

For years on end, goods worth millions of shillings have been gutted amid conflicting reports on the causes of the fires that have destroyed livelihoods and shattered dreams.

Unfortunately, while reasons behind the frequent fires are not a secret, authorities have sat on the fence, as the cartels and arsonists involved grew bolder.

After the latest incident, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho challenged leaders and the business community in Gikomba to volunteer information to help bring the culprits to book. 

However, unless the PS follows his word with specific orders, not much will be achieved.

This, therefore, means that the new command centre people must not sit pretty in the offices because nobody will volunteer meaningful reports. They must leave their comfort zone and spend days at the market, accompanied by investigators, if they want to unravel the real motive of the attacks.

It is not as simple as it looks, though. The people behind the attacks are as vicious as they come, and the stakes are extremely high.

Indeed, behind the veneer of the squalid conditions, investigations must focus on a group of filthy rich individuals who are buying houses from residents and putting up storeyed buildings in the heart of the market.

From the start, the government must make it clear that Gikomba market is public land, and that it will never be converted to private use. 

As promised, the State Department for Housing and Urban Development must then quickly fence the area with a wall to keep off people who have been starting fires with an eye at insurance compensation.

However, in calling the market to order, it would make a lot of sense if the hundreds of youths who man businesses are involved in the initiative, otherwise these efforts might become counterproductive.

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