Kisumu port launch to signal city revival, but traders cry foul

A source tells the Star that the more than 90 per cent complete port project is set for commissioning this month.

In Summary

• The traders incurred huge losses and are still grappling with how to start business afresh after their stalls were flattened down by bulldozers.

• The more than 90 per cent completed port project is expected to create thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities.

Sh3 billion renovation of Kisumu Port.
KISUMU PORT: Sh3 billion renovation of Kisumu Port.

Hundreds of traders whose shops were demolished three months ago during the Kisumu port expansion are yet to be compensated as the facility's commissioning draws near. 

The traders incurred huge losses and are still grappling with how to start business afresh after their stalls were flattened down by bulldozers.

The buildings and shops erected on Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) land within the city centre have all been demolished.

Tenants in KRC houses have vacated. The houses have been renovated and under tight security. Those on Kisumu's Upper Estate were last week given a seven-day notice to vacate to create room for renovation. 

At the Jua Kali area, illegal structures are currently being brought down. Other places that have been demolished are Lwang’ni beach eateries, Akamba Lane shops, Winmart business shops, Tilapia beach and part of Lake market.

Other temporary structures along the streets within the Central Business District have also been brought down.

The demolitions were meant to kick out those who have encroached on the KRC land and open the lakefront for the operationalisation of the port.

They were also aimed at removing temporary structures from the streets for the beautification of the city. The county government has launched an initiative to reorganise Kisumu’s lakefronts.

It is hoped that this will improve tourism potential and revive Lake Victoria’s blue economy, which is in line with the objectives of the national government.

City manager Doris Ombara said they have allocated Sh250 million to improve the rundown drainage system and embark on a beautification project of the CBD.

The World Bank-funded project will entail the modernisation of Kenyatta Avenue, Oginga Odinga, and Ang’awa streets.

The initiative, dubbed 'CBD Triangle', started last month after the city board awarded the tender to a contractor for the multi-million shilling project.

In the project, the CBD will be redesigned so that no vehicles will be allowed to access Kenyatta Avenue, Oginga Odinga and Ang’awa streets – making it a CBD triangle.

Some of the works to be done in the city drainage master plan are replacement of broken slabs, construction of pedestrian walks, installation of road furniture and toilets, noted Ombara.

The project is expected to upgrade the city’s drainage, which was done in the 1950s when the population was about 50,000. The city's current population is more than 500,000.

The demolitions have sparked mixed reactions from traders and locals. On the one hand, the locals have embraced the ongoing upgrading of the city and opening up of the port, but on the other hand, traders are counting losses.

Amina Achieng, a Tilapia beach business owner, said she wasn't served with notice and has incurred huge losses. She said she spent more than Sh20 million to set up the place.

Amina said she pleaded with the city manager to give her time to remove her things but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

The trader said this has devastated her as she lost properties worth Sh70 million. The land does not belong to KRC, she said.

“I have a title deed of this place and I’ve been paying land rates of sh 100,000 per year. I don’t know where to start as I have no alternative space,” Amina said.

The Lake City, famously TLC owned by former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo which is opposite Acacia Premier Hotel will also be demolished.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce-Kisumu Branch Chairman Israel Agina said more than 3,000 businessmen have been affected.

He said 2,000 people who were employed directly and indirectly by the establishments have been rendered jobless.

Traders at the Winmart Business Centre are crying foul with some lamenting that the notice issued to them had not expired.

Patrons at the popular eateries lamented the move to demolish them saying they could not afford food at high-end hotels within the Central Business District.

“Food at Winmart was cheap compared to other hotels like Acacia and Kisumu which are the only ones available,” boda boda rider Joseph Omondi said.

The business centre, he said, provided them with a ready market since he could ferry passengers from the centre to various destinations.

TLC restaurant former manager Peter Opundo said it was unfortunate that the establishment was demolished before the expiry of a notice issued to them.

Opundo said they were issued with a 90-day eviction notice by the Kenya Railways Cooperation on July 30. 

County boss defends evictions

Governor Anyang’ Nyong'o defended the eviction of hawkers from the CBD ahead of Africities summit in 2021.

He said the county had secured a 23-acre parcel from Kenya Railways for the establishment of a market to house the hawkers.

Nyong’o recently said the relocation was aimed at sanitising growth, noting that hawkers are on the streets due to lack of proper establishments for their operation.

The roadside market next to the main bus park had only thrived and posed public health and other risks after plans to rehabilitate existing Jubilee, Kibuye and Otonglo markets were halted.

The donor-funded projects delayed due to obstacles by the traders but will soon be completed to offer space for those operating from the roadsides.

Nyong’o defended the clearing of temporary roadside structures to pave way for city beautification, saying there was a need for order.

The plan falls within a World Bank-funded Sh250 million project geared at improving the lakeside town’s outlook ahead of a major African cities conference in 2021.

Businessman Erick Rabuogi supported the plans to upgrade Kisumu and open up the port but said traders should have been given alternative business space.

“Many people have been rendered jobless as they lack spaces to do business. County government must swiftly address the agony the traders are facing,” he said.

Rabuogi said many people will be rendered jobless which is likely to increase the crime rate.

“More than Sh5 million was circulating daily within the shops demolished,” he added.

Transform Empowerment for Action Initiative (TEAM) executive director George Owuor condemned the manner in which structures were brought down.

He said traders should have been allocated alternative spaces to do business before the demolitions.

Many traders, he said, suffered huge losses. “Some risk being bankrupt as they have huge loans to pay,” Owuor said.

They are now in poverty following the destruction of their property, he said.

Kisumu Senator Fred Outa praised efforts to revive lake transport and urged locals to make good use of the rehabilitated port for to earn a living.

Outa said the port will create thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities. “The kind of employment that will be created once the port is operational will be enormous if well utilised,” he said.

It will also boost lake transport and improve maritime activity on Lake Victoria.

"This is a milestone for the people of Nyanza. To those who were against the handshake can see the miracle at the port," Outa said.

He noted that the lake will spur growth as it opens the once dormant maritime industry.

Outa told residents to position themselves strategically to trade via the water body with the other East African States.

"This port should not be a museum but rather an opportunity to grow our people economically. Let us make good use of this port and do business," he said.

For decades locals have been grappling with unemployment after Kisumu cotton millers (Kicomi) and Kenya breweries shut down operations.

However, Kenya breweries plant has been rehabilitated at a cost of Sh15 billion awaiting official opening with plans underway to revive Kicomi.

Locals are optimistic that if the two are fully revived it will address the high rate of unemployment.

Joan Achieng, a trader said most of the traders took loans to start businesses.

“Demolishing our structures without an alternative site is inhumane. We have loans to pay,” she said. Achieng wants those affected to be compensated.

But for Joel Mokaya, development projects come with demerits as some people have to be affected to give space.

He faulted those who failed to obey the notice issued to them to vacate the streets and KRC property.

Winmart market landlord George Opande noted that they had documents showing that the parcel of land did not belong to the Kenya Railways.

“This is a private property which has title deeds, plus there is an existing case against the corporation before the Environment and Lands Court," he said.

He noted that no notice was given to traders of more than 130 shops that were demolished.

“It is very sad that more than 2,000 people that were benefiting from this market have been affected by the demolitions,” he said.

Trader Jack Otieno said the government pledged to create opportunities for traders. But they were seeing a different thing. 

Otieno faulted the demolition process and accused the county government of failing to help the traders.

“The space that has been allocated for traders will not be able to accommodate them all. We are also not certain whether locals will be absorbed to work at the port,” he added.

Commissioning of the port

Four Presidents from East Africa on August expected to launch the Sh3 billion Kisumu port, one of the biggest projects initiated in Western Kenya after the handshake. The exact date of the launch is still unknown.

They are President Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Felix Tshisekedi (DRC) and John Magufuli (Tanzania). Magufuli and Tshisekedi are Raila Odinga's close friends.

However, a source told the Star that the more than 90 per cent complete port project is set for the launch this month.

Seen as part of the handshake goodies, the face-lift is expected to restore the glory of the once vibrant East Africa hub, an area previously perceived as deliberately marginalised by the state.

Already Kenya Ports Authority has installed forklift trucks, mobile cranes and tractor-trailers in a signal that it’s all systems go.

KPA managing director Daniel Manduku told the Star the port will initially create between 100 and 200 direct jobs when officially opened.

"We are ready and all the equipment needed is on-site," Manduku said.

KPA plans to make the port a regional hub for East Africa to serve Mbita, Homa Bay, Mfangango Island, Muhuru Bay pier, Luanda K'Otieno, Usenge beach and Port Victoria.

Uhuru and Raila have keenly followed every step of the rehabilitation of the port and visited almost five times since the beginning of this year.