Forgotten Mama Ngina traders want back in

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A group of Mama Ngina traders wants to be allowed back into the park, saying they have been out of work for eight months. 

The traders belong to Umoja ni Nguvu, one of five registered groups that had been operating at Mama Ngina Waterfront Park.

The traders were all evicted in March following a rise in Covid-19 cases. 

After much lobbying, the other four groups were allowed back in the park on July 1.

“Surprisingly…we were barred. Only us. Why? Are we outcasts?” asked Kim Mariga, the Umoja ni Nguvu chairman.

The other groups are Cacoma (who sell cassava, coconuts and maize), Ice Cream Vendors, Fanfare group (including horse riders, toy car riders, etc), and photographers.

Umoja ni Nguvu is mostly made up of traders in soft drinks, handkerchiefs, face towels, perfumes, bracelets and accessories, among others.

Human Rights Agenda said the traders’ rights have been violated.

“Most of their complaints are genuine. The government has invested a lot of money in Mama Ngina to upgrade the facility and ensure it attracts tourists,” Huria officer Anthony Maganga said.

“But this should not be to the detriment of livelihoods. These people have been traders at Mama Ngina for more than 30 years. They have nowhere else to go.”

The 26-acre park was refurbished at a cost of Sh456 million in 2019.

The lobby is in talks with the traders to seek legal redress.

“We will look into ways to ensure their voice and their lamentations are heard,” Maganga said.

“We are not talking about the 60 or 100 traders. We are talking about families, people who depend on these traders to live.” 

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir presented a petition from the traders in the National Assembly, prompting the Trade committee to visit the park in September to assess the situation.

The MPs promised swift action. Nothing has so far been done.

On Thursday, Mariga said life is getting difficult.

He told the Star many of the traders feel targeted because they have been the most vocal against their continued stay outside the park.

“I feel I am being victimised because I have been on the forefront in protests against our mistreatment. But now the traders are suffering because of me,” Mariga said.

He said most traders make between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000 a day.

“On holidays like Christmas, we make up to Sh13,000,” Mariga said.

He said they are worried this time round they may not make any money if they stay outside the park. 

Mariga said they have complied with every requirement thrown at them.

“We have membership cards, badges and reflectors issued to us by the county government,” he said.

Governor Hassan Joho directed officials to find ways of allowing the traders to operate in the park.

“I have always defended and protected Mama Ngina traders and beach operators for the longest time – ever since I was the Kisauni MP. I know their challenges,” he said.

“We will formulate policies that support you to ensure whoever operates not only at Mama Ngina but also along the coastline is registered, recognised, trained and has the capacity.”

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya