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Kenya's "little Mogadishu's" regains luster as safety enhances

07 October 2015, 18:03

Nairobi - Business is flourishing again in Eastleigh, a commercial hub on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The district, also called "little Mogadishu" in Kenya as it was built by Somali immigrants who have been migrating to Kenya since 1990s, experienced once a sluggish business during the climax of threat from regional terror group Al-Shabaab.

The Somalis have invested greatly in the district, mainly importing goods that include electronics, textiles and shoes from Asia and the Middle East for sale to traders, who come from as far as Uganda and Congo.

The traders are happy and buyers too are happy as it were some years back, before terrorists started to carry out attacks in the district.

Matatu (mini-bus) operators, equally, are laughing all the way to the bank as the number of people visiting the district in search of bargains on clothes, shoes and handbags rises.

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The malls that at one time were deserted as terror attacks rose are now fully occupied, with hundreds of buyers flocking in each day.

"We are happy that Eastleigh has reclaimed its glory; we are happy that business is growing, just as it were over three years ago. People no longer fear to come to Eastleigh because this is now a safe place," said Mohammed, a clothestrader.

Mohammed said many of his customers, who had kept off Eastleigh when terror attacks increased, have returned, boosting his business.

"I relocated from the previous mall I was in because it was near a spot where terrorists struck. I moved to this new place, where I have directed my six customers, only one has kept off," Mohammed said as he dished out his business card to a customer that had bought items worth over 48 dollars.

In the next stall were three Somali women selling handbags and ladies shoes. The shop, manned by mother and her two daughters, had four customers buying different items.

"It was not possible to see such scenes about a year ago. We would open our shops, sit and go back home. People were not coming to Eastleigh," said Mohammed.

Eastleigh, which hosts close to 400,000 people and moves about 100 million U.S. dollars a month, became unsafe after terrorists sustained attacks in the district that hosts thousands of Somali traders.

Most of the terror attacks happening in Nairobi, including the one on Westgate Mall, according to the Kenya police, were also planned in the district, thanks to its congestion that had seen operatives of the Somali terror group the Al-Shabaab find it a haven.

The rise in the attacks saw police launch a major security operation to flush out the terrorists. Hundreds of Somalis staying in Kenya illegally were rounded up and some deported back to their country as security officers worked hard to dismantle terror cells in the district.

Besides the police efforts, business community too has formed several associations that include Eastleigh Residents Community, which have helped to boost security in the area and smoke out terrorists.

"I am now confident of going to Eastleigh to buy clothes. I suffered when terrorists struck now and then in the area because I had to buy clothes expensively in the city centre," said Esther Onyango, a communication officer with a research institution in Nairobi.

In Eastleigh, skirt suits, for example, cost 24 dollars while in shops in Nairobi city center the same goes for 43 dollars. The huge price difference is what makes Kenyans flock to Eastleigh in search of bargains from the Somalis.

And to assure people that all is well, two months ago, police officers held a roadshow in the district to build ties with residents. Enditem


- Xinhua


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