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Business thrives in Gikomba after attack

28 May 2014, 19:52

Nairobi - The young man deeps his right hand into a heap of clothes and turns them as he shouts their prices.

He repeats the feat and then erupts into dance as he shouts the prices, catching his customers by surprise as some begin to laugh.

On seeing his antics, his rival in the next stall at the expansive at Gikomba market in Nairobi, Kenya, jumps up and down as he shouts prices of his wares – women attire.

He, thereafter, selects a skirt from the heap he is selling and puts it on in bid to attract customers.

The men's antics keep customers flowing to their stalls, but most importantly, they show that business has normalized at Gikomba market.

It is about two weeks since the biggest second-hand clothes market in East Africa region was hit by a terror attack. Terrorists carried out twin attacks at the market.

In the first incident, they threw an improvised explosive device inside a public transport vehicle loaded with people and in the second, they hurled a grenade inside the crowded market.

Ten people died in the attack that as many others in Kenya was blamed on Somali militant group, the Al-Shabaab.

The attack spread fear among traders at the populous market with some of the survivors of the blasts vowing not to return to the facility.

But time is the best healer. Two weeks since the event happened, business is once again booming at the market, with traders having seemingly forgotten about the incident.

"We cannot keep off the market because there was a terror attack. This is where our livelihoods are. How shall we take care of our families if we stay away from the market?" David Njoroge, a trader at the market, posed on Tuesday.

Njoroge, who sells shoes, said even as they go about their businesses, traders have not forgotten about the incident.

"We still remember our friends who died in the cowardly attack. They died unnecessarily. No one deserves to die, except terrorists, " he said.

Since the incident happened, Njoroge said traders have enhanced vigilance at the market to pick out any bad elements.

Anyone carrying luggage, however small, is now looked at keenly to ensure that they do not have bad intentions.

"We cannot take chances. The other day we stopped a young man who looked suspicious. He was carrying a green paper, which he left at a stall after buying a pair of shorts. The stall owner raised alarm and the man was stopped," he recounted.

Later, the luggage was found to contain children's clothes he had bought at the market.

"We found out that he had genuinely forgotten his luggage, but the scare he caused in the noon incident was enough to make some traders close shop," he said.

Police and public transport vehicle (matatu) operators have also intensified security at the market. Both undercover and uniformed police officers now patrol the market to ensure traders and their customers are safe.

As one walks in the market, one can see police officers keeping vigil at different sections of the facility that is also a haven for fresh produce and fish traders.

Hundreds of traders flock the market to buy fresh produce and fish, which they sell in Nairobi suburbs.

As traders, matatu operators, who were among the most affected by the blast, are not taking any chances with security.

The operators are screening commuters before they enter while vehicles and passengers are advised not to leave windows wide open.

In the terror incident, terrorists found it easier to attack passengers because the vehicle's windows were open.

"We tell them to open the windows just a little bit so that terrorists do not find a chance to throw in the vehicles explosives. Besides that, we screen all of them before they board the vehicle," said John Nderitu, a conductor with Forward Travellers, which operators the Gikomba route.

Traders at the market said the terrorist attack has not dissuaded customers from flocking the facility.

"In the first two or three days after the attack, the number of people visiting the market went down, but it has now steadied," said Njoroge.

"Things have normalized. People still hold Gikomba in high esteem and it remains their first choice when it comes to shopping for affordable second-hand items."

Traders from across the East Africa region visit the market to buy wares. The facility is also home to traders from Uganda and Tanzania, who sell their wares there.

Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo has assured citizens that security has been enhanced at different public places.

On Monday, Kimaiyo asked shopping malls, churches and supermarkets to beef up security after he toured the facilities and detected lapses.

"We urge all public and private installations, including matatus, to enhance security by screening all people getting in," he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked Kenyans to be vigilant and assured that the government will crash terrorists.

- Xinhua


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