The Sh1 billion Chaka Modern Market, which was one of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s flagship projects in Nyeri, is at the verge of becoming a white elephant as the government plans to relocate traders to their initial land.
Previously, the traders were operating along an open-air market at the roadside along the busy Nyeri-Nanyuki highway but were evicted by the previous regime to pave the way for the building of a railway station.
The new railway station was officially opened by the former Head of State a few days before the August 9 General Election.
Now, President William Ruto’s administration has started measures of relocating the traders from the multi-billion shillings’ premises to their initial space.
While accompanied by officials from the Kenya Railways (KR) in assessing the proposed piece of land on Monday, Kieni MP Njoroge Wainaina castigated former President Kenyatta’s move to construct the ultramodern market away from the bustling town.
MP Wainaina argued that public participation was not conducted to necessitate eviction of traders from the railway land, arguing that the new market would have been done at the same site.
“It is a requirement of the law that public participation be conducted before any public project is initiated. My view is that the market should have been built on the railway land. Obviously, public resources were lost by building the market at its current site,” the MP said.
“Traders were earning a decent living before because they were operating just adjacent to the highway. Relocating them, made them lose so many customers who are plying along this route. And that is why the government decided to bring them back to their initial site.
Majority of traders have since left that market to other parts of the county and that is unfair,” he added.
Mr Wainaina said the government plans to settle about 1,800 traders at the land, arguing that the multi-billion market would be operating as a wholesale market.
“All markets along the highway like Kibirigwi and others have been thriving. We want Chaka traders to flourish in their businesses. Kenya Railways will set up infrastructure to accommodate enough traders on this piece of land,” the first time MP said.
He said that Kenya Railways, in partnership with the county government, will manage the operationalization of the market.
But Chaka Market chairman Benjamin Kamanja cautioned the government against abandoning the modern market.
Mr Kamanja told the media that the future of Chaka town is anchored on trade.
“Well, even as we open doors for retail traders to return to the highway, let us not abandon the ultramodern market. We are urging the government not to convert the market into another public utility,” the chairman said.
“The railway or the highway might reclaim its land in future and that is why we should do things carefully not to kill our modern market,” he added.
The new Chaka market has an open-air space for food traders, clothes traders, matatu and bodaboda terminus, banking halls, a Sacco, cold rooms, eateries and a wellness centre.