A dispute between traders who own stalls and hawkers disrupted normal business at City Market, Nairobi, on Monday.
Traders who own shops had closed their premises in protest over the return of hawkers who were ejected from the market more than a year ago.
But what started off as a simple boycott by shop owners in the morning soon degenerated into a full blown argument and exchange of words -- with each group was claiming space in the busy meat market.
The feud continued for the better part of the day, with stall owners vowing to close their shops until the issue is sorted out.
Despite the protest, the rival traders who have no fixed premises however continued operating.
They insisted they had a right to be at the market, claiming that were been allowed to return by the county government.
Speaking to the Business Daily, Kamundia Mathenge, a stall owner, said the impasse has been caused by the return of hawkers to the market on Saturday.
He said it has been more than a year since they were removed from the market over health concerns.
“There has been an outstanding cleanup issue aimed at making the market organised. This resulted in the hawkers leaving more than a year ago but they are now back. We want to know who made the decision to allow them back."
Mr Mathenge, owner of Kamundia Butchery, complained that it was unfair for them to operate on equal footing with the hawkers who do not pay any licence to Nairobi County yet they incur costs running into millions of shillings annually to City Hall for operating the stalls.
“They only pay a daily fee of Sh50 to the City Hall while we as the shop owners are ‘dying’ from heavy bills,” he said.
His assertions were echoed by another trader Duncan Kamau, who said he pays more than Sh1 million every year to City Hall to pay for rent, electricity bills, licences, and health inspections, among other charges .
“In any given month, I pay Sh12,500 for rent, Sh50,000 for electricity bills; in addition to health and food permit of Sh5,000 annually, Sh26,500 annual licence fee, fire safety fee of Sh4,500 per year, and Halal permit at Sh40,000 per year. This totals to more than Sh1.5 million for my shop every year,” an aggrieved Kamau said.
However, in their defence, the hawkers, led by Titus Odhiambo, blamed the standoff on limited space.
He said with traders increasing every day at the market, others are forced to sell their products in front of the shops.
Mr Odhiambo claimed Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko on Friday last week allowed their return, adding that they also pay fees to the county.
He said they pay between Sh300 and Sh500 for every basket of fish depending on size of fish and up to Sh1,000 for a sack of chicken.
“We will not move. We all have a right to be here just like the shop owners. Some of us have been operating their business at the market for more than thirty years. We also pay Sh50 every day for each stand,” said the trader, flanked by his colleagues.
The fight for space between shop owners and hawkers at City Market, which was built in 1930, has been a recurring issue in the past years stretching from previous administrations.
The market is well known for its fish markets, selling uncommon species such as cod and mackerel as well the regular ones such as tilapia and Nile Perch.