By ELVIS ONDIEKI
Business was disrupted in Kisumu on Saturday morning after youths blocked roads leading to the town to protest the demolition of stalls at Oile market by the county government.
For over an hour, Kisumu was a no-go zone as traders lit fires on the main roads leading to the town and stoned shops near the market.
Demolition of over 100 stalls started Friday night.
Bulldozers commissioned by the county government also brought down one of the walls of a latrine at the market.
Traders started protesting early Saturday, saying it was wrong for the stalls to be flattened before the expiry of a notice given to them by the county government.
Police responded at 8.30am and used tear gas to disperse the protesters.
For the better part of the morning, the traders engaged police in running battles.
The traders were later allowed to collect their wares from the demolished structures.
Oile market is located on the Nairobi-Kisumu road as one enters Kisumu town.
Fish traders, cereal sellers, secondhand cloth dealers and food vendors are among the businesspeople located at the market.
Ms Doreen Owuor, the leader of the over 2,000 traders at the market, said they do not know why they were evicted.
“We were given a seven-day notice to evacuate the market, which was issued on Tuesday this week. And after we complained against the move, the area ward representative said he had negotiated with the county government and that the notice would be extended by a month,” she asked.
Ms Owuor said the traders had not refused to leave the marker, only that they had not been provided with alternative space.
The members of the Oile Traders Association, most of whom are women, had secured loans from the Women Enterprise Fund.
Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, speaking to Sunday Nation on phone, said the county government had already found alternative space for the traders.
“The market is finally down so the contractor can proceed with the road construction.
“I have created space for the at Kibuye market, part of Jubilee market, Kowino market in Nyalenda, Kosawo market in Manyatta, Migosi market in Migos and the fresh fish market in Jubilee,” said the Governor.
He added: “This was an ordinary relocation which must not be politicized. All of us must be interested in a cleaner city.”
Kisumu deputy governor Ruth Odinga, addressing journalists separately, said she was not aware of the planned destruction and that she was in talks with the city manager over the relocation of the traders.
On September 5, the acting city manager Doris Ombara said there were plans to relocate several traders from various points of the city.
Those doing business on highways heading from Kisumu to Kakamega, Nairobi and Busia, as well as those plying their trade on the roadside at Kibuye market will be moved.