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No, Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja did not issue blanket ban on handcarts in the Kenyan capital

IN SHORT: Despite persistent rumours on social media, the new governor of Nairobi county hasn’t banned mkokotenis – but he wants to stop people dumping trash in the handcarts.

“Governor Johnson Sakaja bans mkokoteni's in Nairobi's CBD,” reads a post doing rounds on Facebook.

The claim was published on 29 August 2022, just hours after Sakaja, the newly elected Nairobi county governor, met the county’s employees.

Similar claims were made on Facebook here, here, here and here.

“Mkokoteni” is the Kiswahili name for the handcarts commonly used across Kenyan cities to transport goods over short distances.

Sakaja, who was previously Nairobi city senator, ran for governor under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket. 

The UDA party leader, now president William Ruto, repeatedly used “hustlers” and “hustler nation” in his political campaign to appeal to young people in menial and informal jobs. This includes those pushing handcarts, in the motorbike taxi business and small-scale vegetable vendors. 

The UDA, whose symbol is a wheelbarrow, promised to support these small businesses after coming to power. 

So has the governor banned those using handcarts from operating in the capital just days after being sworn in? We checked.


‘There’s no ban on handcarts’

Sakaja’s address to county workers was captured by various credible media houses in Kenya. 

We used the keywords "Johnson Sakaja meets county workers 29 August" to search for his speech on YouTube and found a video posted by Citizen TV. It captures the moment Sakaja gave instructions on handcarts.

In the video, Sakaja talked about cleaning up the city and creating designated points for people to dump garbage. 

“This weekend we've cleaned the city but tumeona pia hawa watu hawana mahali pa kudump. So I have ordered 30 new skips to be installed in town today. Thirty news skips in different areas,” he said.

The first sentence translates from Kiswahili as: “This weekend we’ve cleaned up the city but we have noted that people do not have places to dump garbage.”

He then says: “Tukishakuwa na enough places within the markets and the backstreets zote, sitaki kuona mkokoteni ya takataka town, mkokoteni iwe ya kubeba mizigo, because they are the ones dumping at night.” 

This means: “Once we have enough places within the markets and the back streets to dump garbage, I do not want to see trash handcarts in town, only those which carry goods and baggage, because they [trash handcarts] are the ones dumping at night.”

The governor also dismissed claims that he had ordered a blanket ban on handcarts on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“Ignore the fake news. There’s no ban on mkokotenis and handcarts,” he wrote on Facebook.

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