The City Council of Nairobi decided that many of the informal shops we call the kiosks (ask Dan Z. what kiosk means), needed to be torn down. At 3 AM they came in, some witnesses said with 2 tractors, and dozed a bunch of areas. Much of the damage was clearly done with something mechanized. The first 3 pictures above show the damage. It was a bad Friday for many of these people, on Good Friday.
Cammy saw it first as she drove by on the way back from the store. I was going to head to the butcher to get some sausages for the workers I hired to work on the wall for the lot across from the house (more on that later). Cammy said the situation looked hot so maybe it was a bad idea. I went anyway, just to get a feel for things. Fortunately I have a lot of friends down there, and I am not part of the City Council. They saw me as an insider and many people were more than willing to talk about what happened.
Most of them realize they are in a gray area regarding the law. They have no permission to be occupying the land where they are. However, the City Council walks around every day and takes 25 shillings from each of them. The situation is complicated by the vendors inside the market. They are paying rent and are in direct competition with many of the vendors outside. So some people were convinced that the vendors inside convinced (with “kitu kidogo,” something little) the City Council to destroy the illegal stalls.
I had a friend, John Nakhumwa, coming over that day. He saw the destruction on his way over and asked if it was thugs that had done the damage. I said, “It was the City Council… um… yes?”
It was a long weekend, both Good Friday and Easter Monday were public holidays. That means it was potentially one of the highest possible revenue weekends for many of the vendors. They spent it salvaging any inventory they had left and supplies to rebuild their stalls. If you recall what I wrote about damaged property, they had to do something quick or it would all disappear.
Compare the two pictures above on the left. From Friday to Monday things were almost back to the way they were. That is another thing that is a bit frustrating. There is no follow up. They come in, doze the place, then leave, and they are back collecting fees on Tuesday like nothing happened.
One of the guys I talked to said, “And this is the government we elected!”