The pain is unbearable when they cannot put food on the table for their children and sickly parents.
It is written on their faces as they pace around the debris of what was left when hell broke loose one chilly morning as they prepared to start their routine jobs that enable them to take care of their families.
Scores of business people in the Gitaru area of Kabete sub-county in Kiambu County cannot work as before like other Kenyans following the destruction meted on their wares at the Gakoe stage.
Majority of them were small scale traders who sold shoes, second hand clothes, sweets while majority of the women sold vegetables and fruits to the people who alighted at the stage which is now deserted
Some of the affected people told KNA yesterday that they had dependants who relied on them for food and medical attention as they are senior citizens of this country who cannot work owing to their advance ages
“Our parents now have no one to depend on.We feel depressed when we have the energy to work and take care of their needs but we cannot simply because the administration here has branded us to be criminals” the chairman of one of the group that operates at the stage told KNA as they commune together whenever they saw a person who appears like a visitor and was interested in listening to them.About 60 business people dealing in various activities at the Gitaru stage are still nursing the shock of losing their property.
Mike Chomba aka Chomley talking to KNA at the Gitaru gakoe stage in Kabete Sub- County yesterday said. “ We cannot understand why the administration had to burn our property including our structures for our small jobs that we used to eke a living and take care of our families.”
The chairman of Gitaru stage Youth Group admits that there are few people in the area who broke the law“ But that is not reason enough that would result to all of us, more than 60 people suffering because of a few people who had engaged in crime” he says while showing KNA the destruction that afflicted them in October 2020.
On the fateful day Chomba says police officers descended on the stalls at the stage and chased the business people away at about 9.00 a.m as they set to begin their daily work. Thereafter, they dragged the makeshift stalls together and set them ablaze without caring that they were burning people’s source of income”
During the incident Chomba says he lost his stock of second hand shoes and clothes which he and his colleagues stored in one stall which they used as a storage facility.
“My stock was worth 25,000 shillings and I had just returned from Gikomba market in Nairobi for the bale of shoes.” A bale goes for 15,000 shillings and when he sold them per piece to individuals , he was able to make a profit or another 15,000 shillings and take care of his family of 4 and his ailing mother, he says while staring at the damaged shoe shine structure which is now a shell.
The chairman of the youth group says their efforts to get assistance have been futile as they have been promised to wait for one mouth so that a decision is made on whether they would resume their business or not.
But within this one month,he says “we are left in a predicament as we do not know how we shall foot our bills and feed our children who remain holed up at home following the COVID -19 pandemic that called for closure of learning institutions.
“We live day by day and at times the children sleep on hungry stomachs as we have nothing to turn to. It is unfortunate that some innocent people are made to suffer for a sin that they do not know and the authorities have not opened to us where we went wrong so that we can rectify the mistake that we committed” says the chairman of the group of 26 venturing in an assortment of businesses in Gakoe stage.
He says the issue of drugs in the area cannot hold water. “We do not have hard drugs here. What we have here is some alcohol and bhang which some people use for their own reasons “Mr. Chomba admitted while regretting what bedeviled him and his business colleagues.
He further explained that in Kabete Sub-County, drugs can be easily found at Co-operative area and this was known by a security personnel deployed in the area.It hardly takes a newly posted police officer on patrol 2 months before they are able to detect the peddlers in the said area, he says.
Kabete Sub-county Deputy County Commissioner Mr. Olaka Etyang talking to KNA from his office said the Gakoe stage was notorious for drugs and criminal activities.” We pulled down the said stalls as there were complaints that the owners were engaging in the sale of drugs which are rampant in the area.”
The Deputy County commissioner who is also new in the sub-county explained to KNA that he relied on his security sub-county team who knew the region inside out and could easily point to a problematic and notorious group of people.
He added that residents were now happy that they could go on with their businesses without fear. An attempt by KNA to talk to some shopkeepers at the affected trading centre were futile as they referred this reporter to Mr. Chomba and preferred to remain non-committal on what had transpired in the month of October 2020.
Mr.Chomba says the area member of Parliament had promised to boost them once the ceasefire was lifted.They said the former MCA of the area had really come to their aid in times of crisis and even the former Governor of Kiambu Mr. William Kabogo when he was in the office.
“These are the only people who care about our welfare and those of our families”he noted while appreciating their concern to the business community that is now languishing in abject poverty.He finally appealed to the Government to address the prevailing problem with the team leaders of the 6 groups operating in the area so as to restore normalcy for the people whom he said were suffering and did not not intend to engage in crime.He admitted that there had been an incident prior to the destruction when a police officer was attacked and assaulted but the incident happened at the opposite stage which is far from the Gakoe stage.
Chomba feels that it was procedural for the office of the Deputy County commissioner to have approached the team leaders and asked them to help in identifying the goons or bad elements who had been involved in the incident rather than punishing all the traders at Gakoe trading stage by burning their wares and business structures.
They are appealing for a reconciliation so that they can be allowed to reopen their businesses and cushion thier families from starvation and suffering
By Lydia Shiloya