BY LINAH BENYAWA
Street riots continued in Mombasa on Tuesday, marking the second day of unrest against new levies imposed on traders at the Kongowea market.
The Mombasa Municipal Council has increased property and market levies by over 400 per cent which traders claim with destroy small businesses.
The new rates contained in a Kenya Gazette notice of January 13 this year were stopped by a court order last month following a suit by Kongowea traders through Mombasa politician Suleiman Shahbal.
Despite the court order, the council began enforcing the rates on Saturday prompting the unrest, which developed into riot on Monday.
Town Clerk Tubman Otieno said the order of July 16 did not stop the council from levying the new charges “because we won the case.” He, however, announced that the new charges will be “suspended till the end of Ramadhan for the sake of peace.”
Otieno said the charges are legal but disclosed that Transport Assistant minister Hassan Joho, who is also the MP for Kisauni under which the market falls, would arbitrate the crisis.
“The case challenging the legal notice that saw the levies increased has not yet been determined and it is so sad to see that the council has increased the rates even without the knowledge of the traders and completion of the case,” said Peter Nyaga, the chairman of the Tomato Traders Association.
Nyaga said the talks they had with the Town Clerk Tubman Otieno on Monday bore no fruit and were left with no options than to protest.
“The council is not allowed at any point to increase the rates by more than 25 per cent but we have seen the rates shooting to 400 per cent which is unacceptable,” said Nyaga.
Shahbal echoed his sentiments. “We just wanted the rates to be reduced because the increase would affect not only the traders but also the locals,” he said.