In the bustling streets of Nairobi, a poignant incident recently came to light, illuminating the trials faced by the city’s street vendors, particularly those who are vulnerable.
The Kenyan populace was deeply moved by the distressing encounter of a physically disabled woman with city askaris, who confiscated her goods and heartlessly toppled her from her chair.
This incident occurred shortly after the chaotic scenes in the Central Business District (CBD) the previous week, where mayai smokie vendors clashed with askaris.
The video capturing the woman’s ordeal, which transpired on October 3 but gained viral attention on October 20, has since led to a surge of public outrage.
Subsequently, details about the woman, identified as Mary Consolata Achieng Otieno, have come to light, thanks in part to the efforts of Eric Omondi, who sought her out and interviewed her.
When the video went viral, it triggered widespread public indignation, with many Kenyans condemning the County Government for the alleged impunity of its officers. It was noted that these officers had also harassed smokie vendors and damaged their carts in the same week.
As of Monday morning, Eric Omondi announced that well-wishers had raised a total of Ksh 817,000 in contributions, with the amount approaching Ksh 1 million.
Mary expressed her gratitude, saying, “Thank you very much to all who contributed, and may God bless you,” through Eric Omondi’s channels.
Mary Consolata Achieng Otieno, the disabled woman at the center of this incident, is a single mother of five children, three of whom are her biological offspring, while the other two are adopted.
The incident involved Mary Consolata Achieng Otieno, a physically disabled single mother of five, who found herself in a confrontation with city askaris after they impounded her wares and cruelly pushed her off her chair.
Known as Mary to her friends and customers, Mary Consolata has faced tremendous challenges throughout her life. Stricken with Polio at the age of ten, she showed remarkable resilience by undergoing therapy and receiving an education through the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK).
Despite her disability, Mary chose not to resign herself to a life of begging. Instead, she became a street vendor, selling beauty products on Nairobi’s streets for over two decades.
Her unwavering determination to provide for her children has been her driving force.
In a recent interview with Mungai Eve, Mary shared her story of perseverance, revealing that she was abandoned by her husband, leaving her to raise their five children, three of whom are her biological offspring, while the other two are adopted.
“I was ten years with Polio when I was taken to APDK, given therapy and provided with assistive devices, and then I was enrolled in school,” she recounted.
Her life has been marked by hardship, having been a street vendor for over 20 years. She reflected on her challenging journey, saying, “It has been very hard hawking with city council. They come and confiscate our merchandise, but our friends come together to support us. This is how I’ve provided for my children, and it’s how I’ve lived my life.”
Despite the hurdles, Mary is resolute in her choice not to resort to begging, asserting, “I have never wanted to beg. I prefer to work for that money, even if someone disrespects you while giving it to you. I refused to pay that bribe.”
Mary primarily sells beauty products, and the incident occurred one evening at 7 p.m. A familiar askari approached her, requesting a bribe to allow her to continue her business without interference. She steadfastly declined, unwilling to engage in corrupt practices.
In retaliation, the askari returned with another individual and heartlessly threw her off her chair, subsequently confiscating her goods, which included shower caps and hairbands.
Mary’s unyielding spirit was evident in her words: “I’d rather work for that money than beg, even if someone disrespects you while giving it to you. I refused to pay that bribe.”
Despite her harrowing experience, Mary reported the incident to the council’s director, Mr. Omondi, who intervened and resolved the matter.
Unfortunately, her story is not unique, as many street vendors in Nairobi grapple with similar challenges on a daily basis.