President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for swift and thorough investigations to establish the cause of the fire that gutted part of Nairobi’s biggest market, Gikomba, early morning on Friday.
President Kenyatta said stern action would be taken against anyone found to be behind the incident.
“Security agencies should move with speed to investigate the cause of the fire, and those believed to be behind the criminal act should face the full force of the law,” said President Kenyatta.
The Gikomba fire started at around 3am Friday, taking hold of the market's fish and groceries section, before quickly spreading to other sections.
All county fire engines were at the scene battling the blaze in the morning, though they were slowed down by congestion and inaccessibility to the open air market.
The National Disaster Management Unit had appealed to persons and companies with fire engines and water boozers to help fight the fire, as it quickly spread to a building housing two banks
Nairobi County head of security Francis Munyambu said the county also asked for help from the G4S firefighting team.
There were no casualties reported.
Some traders at the scene told the Nation that unknown people torched selected stalls using petrol.
Jane Nzuki, a second-hand clothes dealer at the market said she lost stock worth Sh1 million. She accused people with ill motives “who are out to gain politically” for the blaze.
Another business owner, James Kilonzo, lashed out at politicians for being insensitive to small-scale traders like him in the market.
“Choppers are readily available for the politicians to campaign but the same cannot be used when there is a tragedy like this,” he said.
“Predictably, the leaders will come here and give every trader Sh10,000 while the value of the goods we have lost runs into millions,” he added.
In a statement, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said reports received by the government pointed at arson had so far pointed to arson and vowed stern action against those who might have started the fire.
“From the initial reports that we are getting, we are saddened that they appear to point at foul play. The government has set in motion investigations into the cause of this fire to fully establish what caused it,” the minister said in a statement to newsrooms.
“Let it be known that stern action will be taken on the culprits should the investigations establish foul play,” added Mr Kiunjuri.
Mr Kiunjuri said the national and county governments were considering “reconstructing the market to make the structures permanent” as a measure of protecting businesses in the market against fires.
He added that Gikomba is a “very important market for such a big section of the city’s population” and pledged that the government will not abandon the traders who suffered losses.
President Kenyatta, who was speaking in Maua, Meru, said the market would be rebuilt so that traders can start their business as soon as possible.
“The Government will stand with the affected traders by building the market to enable them continue with their business,” said the President.
Additional reporting by Anthony Omuya