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
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
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.