Traders vow to start again, but are tired of the frequent fires

Wednesday March 18 2020

Partly burnt residential houses near Gikomba market after a fire broke out on June 28, 2018. Desperate traders have said they are determined to rebuild their businesses from the scratch. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Rafael Ogolla, a furniture and timber seller at Gikomba, has lost all his stock to fires at Gikomba four times now, and he is tired.

The last time this happened was in 2013 and government officials trooped to the site and promised him and the others whose property had been razed that resources would be deployed to help them get back on their feet. It did not happen.

And now that he has lost everything once again in Thursday’s fire, he has no reason to believe that things will be any different.


“In 2013, all they did was give us iron sheets to help in rebuilding our stalls. We had to start from scratch, digging into our savings and borrowing heavily. We don’t expect anything different to happen this time round,” said the father of three in a resigned voice. He has lost too much too many times to believe that anyone really cares.

Ms Mary Atieno, a single mother of six, is similarly aggrieved.


SH300,000 LOSS

Fighting tears, the businesswoman, who also trades in timber, narrated how she has lost goods worth over Sh300,000 in the fire and will be forced to start all over again.

“Like many others here, this is not the first time that I have lost everything to fires. I have been operating from this market since 1997 and if I close my business each time I lost my stock in fires, I would not have been able to educate my children,” she said.

She said timber business was all she knows and she is going to ensure that she buys new stock and goes back to business.


“I can’t afford to give up. I will do what it takes to see to it that I am back in business. I don’t know any other way to earn a living,” she said.

When the Nation arrived at Gikomba Thursday, traders like Atieno and Ogolla were in queues waiting to register their losses to Red Cross and government officials who had set up centres a few metres away from where there was once a vibrant trading spot, popular with timber and furniture merchants and hardware stores.

The queues snaked around the registration tables, populated with hundreds of traders and residents who hoped that the government would make good on its promise to compensate them for property and lives lost.

Many others gathered in clusters and groups, trading stories about the fire.