- Space Buster Limited director Babior Newton warned that he was heading to court to seek justice.
- City manager accused the investor of desperately trying to link Governor Anyang' Nyong'o and top county officials to his woes.
The war of words between a private developer and Kisumu City authorities over placement of hundreds of containers along the streets where hawkers had been removed escalated on Thursday.
Hours after Space Buster Limited director Babior Newton warned that he was heading to court to seek justice, the authorities led by acting city manager Abala Wanga reiterated that no container would be erected in the utility area.
In a press statement issued Wednesday evening, the city manager accused the investor of desperately trying to link Governor Anyang' Nyong'o and top county officials to his woes and asked him to stop.
"Our attention has been drawn to reports on social media attributed to one Newton Babior who is making alarmist and false claims that the Kisumu City management has unlawfully removed several of his 40-foot containers from the Central Business District," read the statement.
"The said Babior has been using poorly photoshopped pictures of himself and some senior county leaders in a desperate attempt to prove that he was close to the county leadership. We also caution Babior to stop spreading malicious reports against the management of City Hall and the county because of his self-inflicted business wounds attributed to poor business strategies and lack of consultations."
Wanga said sometime in 2020, the Kisumu City Board decided to cushion small-scale traders who had been displaced by the reorganisation of the city.
"It was decided that a controlled number of containers be allowed at gazetted locations on the fringes of the CBD. Tenders were floated inviting those who had the capacity to supply containers for the SMEs. Four firms applied and Space Buster won the contract," he said.
Wanga noted that during subsequent meetings, officials from Space Buster met the city management and were given specific directives and rules on where to place the containers.
The company had been cautioned against erecting containers on sewer lines as well as pathways and on top of paved cabros.
"The contractor was further warned against subjecting traders to exorbitant rent. He was told not to charge more than Sh3,500 per cubicle. He went ahead to levy between Sh7,000 to Sh10,000 per cubicle," he said.
According to Wanga, it was then that the mess began. "Before the city management realised it, the company had placed a dozen containers on top of sewer lines and underneath power lines next to Telkom," he said.
He pointed out that traders protested but the investor refused to listen and the company went ahead to flout several clauses in the agreement.
"We cautioned him but he refused to listen and continued to import more containers," he said.
He said company workers on Tuesday night sneaked several containers - curiously painted in county colours - into the area next to former Akamba Bus offices.
It had flouted another agreement because this area was not gazetted for the containers, having been cleared last year by Kenya Railways bulldozers. The city management was alerted by concerned residents. "The containers were swiftly removed," he said.
Wanga noted that the city management had no agenda against the company but will not allow any individual or investor to create disorder.
He said the management had worked hard to create order within the city and will not allow any entity to exploit traders, adding that building the county’s small and medium enterprises was a priority.
"This is why, we, in conjunction with the national government and other partners, are putting up ultra-modern markets and creating a business friendly environment. We wish to tell our people, especially traders, to ignore the propaganda being spread by the said Babior and his bloggers.
"He won the tender but has since shot himself in the foot by doing what he was not supposed to do," he said.
On Wednesday, city authorities demolished the containers after a public uproar.
Residents questioned why an individual was allowed to put up structures in places where others had been removed.
“We were displaced from this area and our structures were demolished. We are shocked that somebody is allowed to erect containers after traders have been driven out of the place,” trader John Owour said.
Wanga led the demolition of the containers which were allegedly put up without public participation.
He also demolished structures next to Telkom Plaza, which left traders incurring losses.
Traders said their shops were demolished abruptly and they lost goods to the destruction and looting.
“It is so unfortunate that we are being subjected to this kind of suffering. We are only tenants who depend on our businesses for a living,” Jael Akeyo said.
Members of the public vowed that they would oppose any move to erect containers in the city without being engaged.
Milton Obote said several traders had previously been affected by demolitions to pave the way for ongoing developments. He said containers were placed where Kenya Railways, in partnership with Kisumu county government, had demolished structures belonging to traders.
“We are against such kind of double standards. The public must be involved in any development to avoid a backlash,” Obote said.
But Space Buster director Babior said the containers were erected after following due process.
Babior said he was awarded the tender during former city manager Doris Ombara's tenure to put up modern affordable containers for traders.
He said he was awarded the tender on November 27, 2020, under a public private partnership contract after a competitive tendering process.
“We signed the contract with the city. Whatever has happened is illegal,” he said.
Edited by Henry Makori