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October 19, 2018

Lobby to sue police, Uasin Gishu for injuring hawkers during eviction

A file photo of hawkers in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu county.
A file photo of hawkers in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu county.

A North Rift human rights organisation has said it will move to court over an attack on 12 traders during eviction from Eldoret town last Friday.

The people were seriously injured by a contingent of police officers, with the support Uasin Gishu county enforcement personnel, who tried to evict hundreds of small scale traders from Eldoret town.

Nick Omitto, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Mediation (CHRM), condemned police and enforcement personnel for using excessive force during the operation.

Speaking to the press in Eldoret town on Saturday, Omitto said he will take action against what he termed "frequent violation of traders' rights by the regional government".

Five victims were rushed to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in critical condition during the running battles. Traders including hawkers, vegetable vendors and M-Pesa attendants lost property worth at least Sh300,000.

Omitto requested the victims to visit their Eldoret office and make statements so they can ensure justice is served.

“We are going to file a case against police officers and the county over human rights abuses and destruction of property. We have enough evidence to sustain the case to its conclusion."

Related: Frustrated Marakwet mango traders threaten to cut Eldoret water supply

'County rejected dialogue'

Kimani Wanjohi, a trader at the whole sale market, said they will raise the matter with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority

Noting county leaders rejected dialogue on resolving the standoff, he said: “The police harassment against hawkers has been going on for so long but it got worse on Friday.

"Traders have been arrested and others hospitalised, which is a very bad thing. We need our governor Jackson Mandago to talk to us because these attacks will not resolve anything."

Videos emerged on social media but the county has denied claims of harassing hawkers who operate in the town. The videos show traders being clobbered by uniformed police officers and county enforcement personnel in plain clothes.

 A group of police officers flanked by county askaris are seen dragging a man on the ground while clobbering him.

The officers are also captured destroying dozens of fruits including bananas, avocados and oranges on several trolleys believed to belong to the hawkers.

County security advisor Paul Ruto, while denying claims of excessive force, accused the traders of defying directives to relocate to the modern Eldoret West market.

"We have been urging them to take advantage of the new market the county constructed for them but they have been unwilling and have operated on the streets against county regulations. This is why we are in the process of evicting them from the CBD."

Ruto claimed that some of the hawkers were engaging in criminal activities such as mugging, pick pocketing and selling illegal liquor and bhang "in broad day light".

“We have been receiving a number of complaints from members of the public, that some of these hawkers are engaging in illegal activities.

"This was confirmed on Friday after we confiscated four rolls of bhang, broken bottles, knives and illegal liquor from them during a security operation by our officers in collaboration with Kenya Prisons APs and regular police officers."

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