A row has emerged at Madaraka market in Thika, Kiambu County after it emerged that cartels have infiltrated operations of the trading centre.
It is reported that outsiders have been organized to disrupt activities at the market that had been torched by arsonists more than seven years ago.
According to a section of traders, leadership wrangles at a time when traders are set to elect new office bearers are to blame for the disruption.
Trouble is said to have begun in 2021 when the government launched a crackdown targeting potato traders and transporters violating the 50 kilograms rule in the packaging of Irish potatoes.
After the new regulations began to be implemented, some traders at the market are alleged to have been duped to hire a lawyer to oppose the government’s bid, a move that saw over 50 of them contribute Ksh 10,200 each, money that is said to have ended in the pockets of a few leaders with nothing to show for it.
Irked by the revelations, the traders led by Mary Wamuyu who has been selling her merchandise at the market for many years urged Kiambu County leadership through governor Kimani Wamatangi to conduct investigations and ensure all the culprits in the scheme to defraud traders are arrested.
“We want action taken against the criminals who hoodwinked our fellow traders and defrauded them of their hard-earned money,” Wamuyu stated.
Also at the centre of a simmering row is the proposed election of new market officials, a plan that has been described by some traders as unprocedural as the outgoing leadership has failed to inform all traders about when and how it will be conducted.
Florence Munini, a trader claimed that there is a bigger plot to eject native market traders and replace them with people from outside Thika, a move she decried is poised to deny her and others the opportunity to continue making a livelihood.
“This is the place I call home. It has been my workstation for years and from my hustles here, I have been able to educate my children to the university level. I cannot even imagine any attempts to destabilize our cohesiveness here and possible evictions. We want to live united as we have always done,” Munini stated.
Her sentiments were echoed by Regina Nduku who insisted that current traders should be allowed to continue operating without outside interference for peaceful coexistence.
The market, which has been in deplorable conditions for many years, has been proposed for construction through World Bank funding in a bid to improve its working environment.
In November 2015, the market was razed down by unknown people, a crime that saw over 5,000 traders suffer huge losses, alongside politicians barricading the busy Thika-Garrissa road agitating for action and arrest of perpetrators.
The market, its sorry state notwithstanding, has been serving businesspeople from parts of Machakos, Garissa, Murang’a and Kirinyaga Counties.