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Mixed reactions after the relocation of a new market

Traders who were moved from the Nyeri Kamukunji grounds to the Field Marshal Muthoni Kirima bus terminus have expressed some reservations, six months later after relocating to the new site.

The county government set up stalls at the Kamukunji grounds in 2020 to allow hawkers who previously operated along the Gakere and Kamukunji roads to enable them to continue with their work from there.

Some of the affected traders were however opposed to the arrangement as they argued that the stadium had little foot traffic.

The shift to the stadium however ended up affecting national holiday celebrations forcing organizers to host the events at the DEB Muslim Primary School grounds.

This challenge was eventually addressed by the county authorities on July 30 2023 after it ordered the relocation of over 1,000 traders from the Kamukunji grounds to the sh 700 million ultra-modern Field Marshal Muthoni Kirima market.

But Samuel Maina Kamami who is the chairman of the Asian Quarters Muthoni Kirima Traders Association traders says the county government is yet to address some of the challenges they had raised before their relocation.

Among the issues the traders had been promised included relocating the current matatu terminus to the site as soon as possible as this would have contributed to a crucial section of their clients.

This has however not happened six months down the line.

“We had been promised that our businesses would receive a boost once the main matatu terminus is relocated to this place as there would be more traffic as compared to Kamukunji grounds. This was supposed to have been affected within two weeks but six months down the line, nothing has happened. Traders are now counting losses as very few people are willing to walk to this market due to its long distance from the CBD,” lamented Kamami.

The trader has also faulted the county government for allocating two days only (Saturday and Wednesday) as market days, terming it inadequate to undertake any meaningful business.

He also claims that many of their traders who had paid for their stalls are yet to open shop owing to bureaucratic procedures involving something he says has impacted negatively to the success of the relocation.

“We normally operate on Wednesday and Saturday and thereafter close for five days of the week which to me translates to lost business. This should not be the case if we are going to boost the income of small businesses in this county. Moreover, some of our members have already paid for their market stalls but cannot open them since the county government is yet to issue them with trading licenses. This means their stalls will remain closed for business even though they have paid for them,” he claims.

His sentiments are echoed by Winfred Nyaguthii Gitonga who runs a food vending stall at the new terminus.

Ms Gitonga says she had hoped to cash in on traders and passengers once it was operationalized but now feels let down after the county authorities failed to move PSV matatus from the CBD to the site.

The lack of clients has taken a toll on her business and that of her colleagues whom she says feel short-changed by the very government that had promised to enhance their ease of doing business.

“My plea is for the county government to implement the promise of making this market work by relocating the old bus terminus here. Right now, some are opting not to open at all to avoid wasting an entire day waiting for non-existent clients. Had the county government relocated the main matatu terminus to this place as promised, this place would be an ideal site to undertake business,” she stated.

The trader has also called upon the authorities to erect permanent roofs over their stalls and also put cabral walkways to shield both traders and customers against the vagaries of extreme weather.

She said the national government had pledged some funds for the construction of shelters over the stalls and also put up cabrals for the walkways by both clients and traders.

“When the President (Dr. William Ruto) came here last year, he promised some funds to the county to help finalize construction of modern walkways and put overhead shades to shield traders from rains and the scorching sun. Unfortunately, the county government is yet to implement this directive leaving buyers and sellers at the mercy of elements of weather,” she laments.

On August 7 2023 Dr Ruto had directed the lands ministry to set aside sh 150 million for the upgrading of the terminus.

While commissioning the multi-million bus terminus the Head of State said the government would ensure the traders who were relocated from Kamkunji grounds conduct their business in a conducive environment.

The President also directed the Ministry of Information, Communication, and the Digital Economy to connect the facility with free public Wi-Fi to enable business people in the terminal to leverage e-commerce.

“I have set aside Sh 150 million for the construction of the sheds and I have directed the Land CS, Zacharia Njeru, and the Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga to ensure that the construction starts in the next one and a half months completed in the next six months so that traders can conduct their businesses,” said the Dr Ruto.

“I know you have smartphones and sometimes affording bundles to place an order for your stock can be a challenge. I have directed the CS in charge of ICT to connect the terminus to Wi-Fi so that you will have free internet,” he said

But Moses Maina Mwangi,a shoe seller at the new market says the woes facing them lie squarely at the doorstep of the county government.

Mwangi says before the relocation, the county government should have first undertaken a public sensitization forum to inform the people of the planned changes.

The trader says this was never done and therefore many residents of Nyeri are still unaware of the existence of the new market.

“The biggest challenge that has contributed to low business here is lack of awareness of our existence. People don’t know there is a market here. What the County officials should now do is undertake a comprehensive sensitization campaign and popularize this market as an ideal shopping place where they can get what they want. Unless this is undertaken, our businesses will continue doing dismally just as they used to do during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he pointed out.

The Field Marshal Muthoni Kirima bus terminus was expected to address the challenge of endless traffic gridlocks that end up inconveniencing commuters in wasted man-hours.

While announcing a mini-reshuffle in his government in 2022 Governor Mutahi Kahiga had directed the then Lands Chief Officer Ms Beatrice Koech to ensure there was a speedy relocation of traders and PSV matatus from the old terminal to the new bus park.

Kahiga had pointed out that the move to the new bus park was a critical project that needed to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.

“The Asian quarter’s bus park is the next major thing on the desk. The completion and transfer of the existing bus stages and traders to the new park must be given priority and dealt with expeditiously while ensuring a smooth and efficient rollover,” he had told reporters.

The new Nyeri bus terminus whose construction began in 2019 for sh 700 million was being implemented in two phases by the Nyeri Town Municipality Board.

It was financed under the Kenya Urban Support Programme, a World Bank initiative whose objective is to spur economic development in countries through improved physical infrastructure development.

The facility features 240 matatus, bus, taxi, and tuk-tuk bays, 1,000 booking offices,40 parking bays, and 98 passenger waiting bays.

In addition, the park hosts 1,000 business stalls, five sanitation blocks, high-level water tanks, and a modern solid waste chamber.

By Samuel Maina and Molly Kendi

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