City residents were Wednesday unable to access some of public toilets in the central business district after armed police officers were deployed to prevent rowdy youth from accessing them.
The officers locked down the toilets in Muthurwa, OTC and Machakos Country Bus station as the struggle over the control of the toilets played out once again.
Public Toilets Operators Association of Kenya Chairman Tom Makale said that the police officers were enforcing an existing court order to wrestle the control of the toilets from youths who allegedly took over sometimes in March.
“There is a court order which is not being respected. It was to be enforced and the police and the county are involved. The police came to execute the order but they could not do it because the county inspectorate was not ready to lead them,” said Mr Makale on Wednesday.
In March, it was reported that certain youth groups had taken over the running of the public toilets forcing the operators to go to court.
“Those who invaded the toilets came with the full [backing] of the powers that be. It became hard for me to lead the police but I am [calling for] the existing court order to be respected,” he said.
In the order obtained by the operators, the High Court directed the police to ensure criminal gangs vacate the toilets and revert full control to operators of the toilets identified as Alika Designs and Cleaning Services Limited, Twenty Four Seven Ventures Limited, Marafiki Sacco Society Limited, Chege Mwangi, Joseph Karanja and George Kariuki.
The court ordered that officers from the Central Police station provide back-up to the defendants and effect the order by preventing criminal gangs from taking over the toilets pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
There has been a back and forth in the city over the operations of the toilets after Governor Mike Sonko two weeks ago threatened to have City Hall take control if the private firms failed to sort out constant infightings.
The early morning Wednesday drama created confusion with many taking to social media speculating that it must have been the county government effecting their earlier threat.
But County Environment Executive Larry Wambua distanced City Hall from the incident saying that they were not involved.
“We were not directly involved in the wrangles as the conflict was between the operators and youth groups and the police were simply doing their job,” said Mr Wambua.