Businesses in Kawangware counting losses
It is more than 60 days that amounts to two months since Kenyans went to the ballot on August 8th for the General Election.
During that time, many Kenyans exercised their democratic right choosing leaders of their choice who will rule the country for the next five years.
However, the announcement of presidential results saw Kenyans react differently depending with their political affiliation.
Kawangware 56 is one of the areas that felt the heat after the declaration of the presidential winner by the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC).
The most affected people were the business community. Ruth Njeri who is a shopkeeper has a few blankets and shoes displayed outside to attract customers. There is nothing else in the shop apart from empty shelves.
“Before the General Election my shop was full to capacity with many items including basins, sufurias (pans), mattresses and many other utensils. Now there is nothing to count but only losses that l encountered,” says Njeri as she reminisces the aftermath of the General Election.
“I started this business five years ago with savings from my husband who was working at a construction site and my savings from selling roasted maize,” she says.
“Together we raised KSh7,000. We bought mitumba (second hand) shoes from Gikomba Market, rented this place and with time our business grew to a net worth of KSh200,000.
“This all changed within one single day and today l’m crawling, starting all over. I do not know how long it will take for me to stand up. Sometimes l wish there could be no election in this country,” says Njeri looking around her now empty shop. She adds with a shaky voice: “l knew voting was the only thing that the common person could make a decision on but now my vote turned out to be my undoing and a ticket to looting amidst all sorts of violence.”
Though not being spoken of, Njeri is a victim of 2017 post-election violence. Her shop was looted with youth who claimed to be demonstrating.
“I did not know my shop was looted until l opened it. I was perplexed with what l saw. The goons had cut the iron sheet on the roof and that’s how they were able to get in. Through my shop they went to the other shops,” she explains.
“My neighbour has never opened their shop again. This is the same with so many other business people whose shops were looted. Some of them have in fact moved out and the shops are now vacant,” reveals Njeri.
She adds: “With the ongoing demonstrations and the political rallies that take place, Kawangware 56 becomes a difficult place for one to operate their businesses.”
In the period before, during and after elections Njeri had to close her shop for three weeks before re-opening. “I guess this is going to happen again on October 26th repeat presidential election or l may have to close and relocate to start a new business somewhere.”
Says Njeri: “My condition is not easy. I have children going to school and I need to raise school fees as well as rent.” She asks desperately: “Who will save me from all this this?”
Robison Odanga, also a businessman in Kawangware 56 narrates his ordeal. “I had two shops both of which were burnt down. If I can estimate my loss, it’s almost KSh500,000.”
Odanga had to use his savings to rent out a new place and start the business all over again. “I have opened this new business but I still harbour fears about the October 26th presidential rerun elections,” says Odanga. He notes: “Right now the business is already doing poorly. If the political situation in the country is not going to calm down then I could end up closing this business due to losses”.
All this burning down and looting of businesses has been reported to the police but nothing has been done. “The only solution that l have for the coming presidential election is to move my goods somewhere safe until the election is over and come back when things have calmed down,” says Odanga.
He notes: “The government had promised us that there would enough security but what happened is the complete opposite. Right now we can only pray for peace and stability in the country.”
Most businesses in Kawangware 56 remain closed although some of the stalls were burnt down and destroyed during the demonstrations. The small businesses in the area are mostly run by women and youth. For the unemployed youth, the businesses are their only source of income. Having them robbed or shut down remains a big loss.