Traders in Kajiado Central Sub-county have challenged both the National and County governments to provide an alternative source of livelihood for them as the county directive to close down all open air markets and night clubs in an effort to curb the spread of Covid 19 (corona virus) started to bite.
According to Esther Nzilani, a mother of 10, the government should be mindful of the common citizen’s plight before undertaking major decisions that affects them directly.
She noted that the decision by the county government to close down all open air markets over the Coronavirus had greatly affected their business as they depended on the market to earn a living.
Nzilani says she has to sell tomatoes at the open air market in Ilbissil so that she could pay her rent and get money to buy food for her family and closing down the market would deny her the only source of livelihood.
“Life is already extremely hard for people like us who don’t have a monthly salary. I took a loan of Sh20, 000 and bought crates of tomatoes to come and sell them here to get money for rent and food only for county askaris to chase us away. If we cannot be allowed to fend for ourselves, then the government should provide for us!” cried Nzilani.
Francis Mwangi, an onion seller at Ilbisil market, appealed to the government to not only focus on the preventing the spread of the disease but think of the effects the closure of the markets would have on the traders.
“We support government measures to protect us from corona virus. However, you cannot tame a hungry person because we are the sole bread winners for our families therefore the government should not just focus on hospitals and drugs but think of the ways that will cushion mwananchi from suffering economically,” Mwangi advised.
Yusuf Sologon, 27, has also vowed to continue with his business despite the outbreak of covid 19 citing that the sale of livestock and goats is his only source of income.
“As pastoralists, we do not have any other source of earning money. The sale of livestock has been our business since the time of our grandfathers. Even corona virus will not scare us from conducting our business so that we can go back home with a pack of unga to feed our families and even if they will close this market, we will look for other places to sell them because we can’t lock ourselves indoors while hungry,” Sologon said.
Furthermore, the residents called for sensitisation programmes to be launched to educate them on how to protect themselves from contracting the coronavirus.
“We need to see people coming to our villages and enlighten us on this virus because we only hear about it through radio and word of mouth so that we can be able to protect ourselves from it in case it erupts in our areas,” Stephen Lekisho said.
Ilbisil market generates at least Sh70 million a week due to the sale of livestock with thousands of families depending on the market to earn a living.
On Wednesday, Governor Joseph Ole Lenku directed that all open air markets and night clubs be shut down with immediate effect following first the confirmation of covid-19 in Kenya at Ongata Rongai, Kajiado North sub County.
The orders are being implemented by the County inspectorate department with Senior Superintendent Jane Lenchiro affirming that they would not allow anybody who would go against the issued directives go unpunished.
There was chaos in Ongata Rongai on Thursday as traders defied orders to close the open air market and engaged the county askaris in running battles.
Kajiado North DCC Tom Anjere however noted that no one would be allowed to sell their wares at the open air market but only at defined market areas where hand washing facilities have been provided.
Anjere urged the traders to comply with the orders as it was for their own good and would protect them against the spread of the global pandemic.
“I want to urge all traders in Kajiado North to comply with the precautionary measures issued. No one will be allowed to operate at the open air market. All closed markets should ensure that there are hand washing kits at the entrances and exits for everyone to wash their hands before entering the market,” he said.
By Rop Janeta and Albert Lemomo