Kongowea is the largest marketplace in the county of Mombasa where thousands of people from all walks of life make their living from it each passing day. However, the huge market is currently muddy stinky mess that is no way fit to be a marketplace.
Initially the market was established for the small population back then but it grew rapidly to a point where every trader has set up a stall or built a shop on top of the drainage systems. Improper solid waste disposal has also contributed to blocked drainage.
When it rains, surely it does pour, absolute misery to the traders and customers that frequent the market on a daily basis. The roads are impassable with mud and large potholes. The rains fill up the drainage systems and the sewage come to the surface. This an imminent danger to Mombasa residents as the market is the primary distribution center for most of the food consumed.
Tony, a trader at the market blames The Public Health Department which seem unconcerned about the sorry state of the market and the lack of improvement over time. A few of the stalls next to his are above a sewer drain, people have gotten used to the strong stench coming from below.
Luvuno argues that the county government has taken the market for and traders for granted.
“Haja yao ni wachukue Pesa kwa wenye biashara na Lori za kuleta mizigo,” (their concern is only to take money from traders and lorries that bring our goods here for sale.)
Although Kongowea is a strategic economic asset for the county of Mombasa, little is being ploughed back in. The traders who are operating in the muck and are an unhappy lot. One stall owner said
“If you enter the market from further up the road, you find the same potholes from 3 years ago. Every year they grow bigger and they are right in front of the Chiefs office.”
As a result, the rains mean a huge decrease in sales especially for traders of non essential items like clothes and shoes.
“Customers do not want to walk in the mud and filth to come buy clothes, it doesn’t make sense for them”, says James who sells stuffed toys. “They would rather pay more and buy in the estates.”
The problems of Kongowea are further compounded by groups that operate like cartels inside the market. The issue was brought to the area MP Hezron Awiti but has not been resolved.
The lack of security is also giving the traders sleepless nights. Kongowea has been a target of a terror attack before.
As the traders struggle through the poor hygiene conditions, they are only too aware that the county collects 5 million in rates per day translating to over 1.5 billion per year. Even a fraction of that reinvested into the market would change their working conditions.