Normal business was Monday disrupted at City Market, Nairobi following a dispute between stall owners and hawkers who have have come back to marketplace.
This follows the closure of shops and stalls in the busy market by traders owning the premises protesting the return of the other traders who do not have stalls at the market.
What started off as a simple boycott by shop owners in the morning soon degenerated into a full blown argument and exchange of words between the traders with each side claiming space at the busy meat market.
The feud continued for the better part of the day with the stall owners vowing to continue closing their shops until the issue is resolved and the status quo restored.
But the other traders continued with their businesses, insisting that they have a right to be at the market.
They claimed that they had been allowed to return by the Nairobi County government.
Speaking to the Nation, one of the stall owners, Kamundia Mathenge, said that the impasse was caused by the return of the other traders to the market on Saturday after more than a year since they left after being removed over health concerns.
“There has been an outstanding clean-up issue aimed at making the market organised. This resulted in the hawkers leaving more than a year ago but they are now back. We want to know who made the decision to allow them back,” Mr Mathenge said.
Mr Mathenge, the owner of Kamundia Butchery, complained that it is unfair for them to operate on equal footing with the hawkers who do not pay any license fees to the county government yet the stall owners pay millions of shillings annually to City Hall.
“They only pay a daily fee of Sh50 to City Hall while we as the shop owners are “dying” from heavy bills,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by another trader, Duncan Kamau, who said that he pays more than Sh100,000 every year to City Hall for rent, electricity bills, licenses, and health inspections, among other charges.
“In any given month, I pay Sh12,500 for rent and Sh50,000 for electricity bills in addition to health and food permit of Sh5,000 annually, Sh26,500 annual license fee, fire safety fee of Sh4,500 per year, and Halal permit at Sh40,000 per year,” Mr Kamau said.
But in their defence, the hawkers, led by Titus Odhiambo, blamed the standoff on limited space at the market, with traders increasing every day, forcing some to sell their products in front of the shops.
Mr Odhiambo said that on Friday last week, Governor Mike Sonko allowed them to return to City Market, adding that they also pay fees to City Hall.
He said that for every basket of fish, they pay between Sh300 and Sh500 depending on the size of fish and up to Sh1,000 for a sack of chicken.
“We will not move out. We all have a right to be here just like the shop owners. Some of us have been operating our business at the market for more than 30 years. We also pay Sh50 every day for each stand,” said the trader who was flanked by his colleagues.
The fight for space between shop owners and hawkers at City Market, which was built in 1930, has been a recurring issue over the years.
The market is well known for its fish, selling rare species such as cod and mackerel as well as more common species such as tilapia and Nile perch.