The Star (Nairobi)

21 August 2014

Kenya: Eastleigh Business Struggling to Pick Up After Security Operation

BUSINESSES in Eastleigh are struggling since the start of the security operation dubbed 'Operation Usalama Watch', to flush out suspected Al-shabaab insurgents from Nairobi.

The Eastleigh Business Community said traders who used to get about 80 per cent returns on their investment before April are now barely making 30 per cent.

"We are in full support of the government efforts to eliminate Al-shabaab in the country. But I wonder how the government intends to attract foreign investors if it is already scaring the local ones," the chairman, Ibrahim Hussein told the Star.

A survey established that the clothing business which is dominant has been worst hit. Most malls in the area are empty a situation which those interviewed attributed to a drop in the number of cloth dealers.

Those still trading in the area said a large number of the Somali community - the main anchor of trade in the area - have relocated to neighboring countries for fear of profiling.

"The situation is no joke here...look around, there are no people...In a day I would sell about 100 pieces of apparel but these days I only sell about 15 pieces. Most people are now managing the stalls for themselves because no one can afford to employ," Mohamed Lefty, a trader in the Eastleigh Social hall said.

Other traders interviewed complained of sluggish business saying the operation had achieved nothing.

"Business has started picking but it is no longer booming like before. The flow of traffic here is low because most of the people who have been left behind are students," Mohamed Abdullahi, a shopkeeper said.

Ali Haji who owns a hardware said he has been forced to reduced the number of casual workers from six to three since they are no longer busy. "Actually, I wouldn't have gotten time to speak to you if it was around January to March because customers would stream here every minute," he said.

Peter Maina, a taxi driver said he would make at least Sh10,000 before the police mounted roadblocks in Eastleigh. "Nobody wants to loiter around anymore. I am even lucky to make Sh2,000 nowadays," he said

According to EBC, trade in Eastleigh during the good times amounted to Sh30 billion per month because of the wide range of goods sold there.

The EBC chairman said the government should arrest rogue police officers who have been harassing and demanding bribes from residents in order to win back investor confidence.

"Even the Independent Policing Oversight Authority reprimanded the police for a number of wrong doing in Eastleigh. If the government doesn't prosecute the rogue officers, we will go to court," he said.

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