Investigations into market fires never lead to any concrete action

Wednesday March 18 2020

Gikomba traders salvage what had remained after a fire broke out in October 2017. The government then announced that preliminary investigations showed that the October 5 morning fire was not an accident but arson. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Barely a year ago, a huge fire destroyed a big portion of Gikomba market, along with property valued at about Sh15 million.

The fire, which started at around 3am in the Gorofani section, was said to be one of the worst at the market.

The government announced, that preliminary investigations showed that the October 5 morning fire was not an accident, but arson. Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said initial reports “pointed at foul play”.

“Let it be known that stern action will be taken against the culprits should the investigations establish foul play,” he warned.


President Uhuru Kenyatta reacted during a campaign rally, ordering Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet to conduct investigations and ensure that action is taken against anyone found culpable.


And as the President directed, the government helped rebuild the market and soon, businesspeople were back on their feet.

But no one was arrested in relation to the fire, although wrangles erupted be-tween the traders over the positions they occupied before the fire.

That was about three weeks after another fire broke out in the same area, at the same hour, consuming more property worth millions of shillings on September 10.


Typically, the police, led by County Commander Japheth Koome, promised to conduct thorough investigations into the cause of the fire.

But nobody was arrested, and the traders were left to rebuild their structures, de-spite visits by several politicians, who promised to help them get back on their feet.

Thursday’s fire, which claimed at least 15 lives, also broke out in the wee hours of the morning.

Nairobi Regional Commissioner Kang’ethe Thuku told the media that the cause of the fire had not been established, but that police would conduct investigations round the clock.


The fire started in the same notorious area – Kwa Mbao in Gorofani. It then spread to other areas, consuming timber, clothes and utensil stalls.

“The fire originated in a timber yard but investigations are under way to establish its cause,” Mr Thuku said.

These three incidents are just among tens of others that have occurred since 2010.

Yesterday, the traders questioned why the fires always break out at night, when it is hard to put them out.

“I have been here for more than 10 years, but I have never heard of a fire breaking out during the day. I guess there has to be someone who starts the fires conveniently at night,” said Mr Reuben Mwangi, who sells duvets.