Mombasa, KENYA: There was a standoff in the food section of the Kongowea Market on Monday morning after potato traders clashed with Mombasa county askaris leaving operations in the busy market section paralyzed.
On Monday morning, county askaris manning the busy section prevented the traders from selling their produce at their normal section insisting that all potato trading activity had to be carried out in the third floor of the new market.
No trading activity went on in the potato section on leaving over 500 traders counting losses and some traders were forced to whisk away their wares as the clash ensued.
According to traders who spoke to Baraka FM, trouble started when county askari’s relocated the traders to the third floor of the new market a move that has not amused the traders.
The traders led by their secretary Samuel Maina claimed that when the new market which was commissioned by president Uhuru Kenyatta last year was being built, the potato traders were not supposed to be allocated space in the market.
“They told us very clearly that since potatoes are dirty we are better off selling out here hence even when market traders were registering to be allocated space in the new market we did not register ourselves because we knew that that space was not meant for us,” Maina told Baraka FM.
However, the traders are now accusing the county government of shortchanging them and allocating the space on the third floor without considering how bulky their product is .
“These loaders charge us Sh.300 to carry a sack of potato up to the third floor yet that is what translates to profit for us. This is not good for business”, Paul Njoroge another trader told Baraka. FM.
The traders who have stated that they would go to court to stop the exercise said that horticulture produce traders whose produce is not bulky had been allocated space in the lower floors at their expense.
The Sh. 444 million market which has a capacity of accommodating up to 1400 traders was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in August 2016.
However, no sooner had the market been launched than a tug of war game ensued between the traders and county officials after the traders accused the county government rubbing the names of 600 traders who were supposed to be allocated space.
Efforts to reach the County inspectorate director for comment were not futile and by the time of going to press, the Mombasa county director communications Richard Chacha said he was not aware of the standoff.