Deposed leaders of Nakasero and St Balikuddembe (Owino) markets in Kampala have petitioned the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, seeking a forensic investigation into what they termed as lies and false information given to President Yoweri Museveni concerning their transactions and alleged harassment of vendors.
They claim that the President could have acted on wrong information to order for the disbandment of all the existing leadership in government-owned markets and abattoirs in the city.
On September 25, President Museveni directed Kampala minister Betty |Amongi to dissolve the leadership in the 16 government-owned markets and abattoirs in Kampala.
In the letter titled, Issues Concerning Markets and Rufulas (abattoirs) in Kampala, the President stated that he was concerned that market leaders had hijacked the markets and abattoirs for a long time. He was also concerned that vendors had been oppressed and were being charged unwanted taxes.
The President noted that some association leaders had registered themselves as the proprietors of the markets instead of the association of vendors and consequently directed the minister to let the vendors elect their leaders afresh under her supervision.
The markets affected are St Balikuddembe, Nakasero, Kisekka, Bugolobi, Usafi, Nateete, Wandegeya, Nakawa, Kasubi, Wankulukulu,Kalerwe I and II, Kamwokya, Bukoto, Busega, Bugolobi, Kiswa, Luzira, Kinawataka, Namuwongo 1 and Namuwongo II. The abattoirs are Wambizzi, City Abattoir and Uganda Meat Industries.
The President said the idea was that the Government repossess its markets and lets the private people who “grabbed them be compensated for their input”.
The Owino team that met Nakalema in her office on Friday was led by Godfrey Kayongo Nkajja, the executive director of St Balikuddembe Stalls Space and Lock-Up Shops Owners’ Association (SSLOA), and submitted to her a list of their grievances. They are seeking an audience with the President to explain their side.
Others were Bismarck Ssempijja, the national chairperson of the Uganda Market and Allied Employment Union, Godfrey Walusimbi, Florence Atedu, and Norah Nassolo.
Kayongo said for some time, the St Balikuddembe leadership had been fighting to ensure the ordinary vendors retain ownership of the market and eventually registered SSLOA, which he said has a membership of over 10,000.
They formed a savings and credit co-operative society (SACCOS) and mobilised money, which they used to secure a lease for the market from KCCA with intentions of re-developing the market into a modern facility.
He said SSLOA already identified a financier and obtained an approved plan from the city authorities.
Kayongo, however, said some individuals, who he described as ‘conmen’, were working with government officials to fabricate stories under the pretext of helping the vendors.
“The President has good dreams of helping the ordinary people, but there is a big problem of implementers who are feeding him with false information because they want to give the market to investors for personal gain,” he said.
Kayongo said information about leaders overcharging vendors for utilities such as power, water and various taxes on foodstuffs and the vendors’ leader individual traders was fabricated.
He said the presidential order was directed at leadership in government-owned markets. Kayongo said Nakasero, St Balikuddembe and Kisekka are private property since the vendors, through their associations, were granted leases to manage them, and therefore, do not fall under the category of government property.
“The minister needed to have consulted widely to establish the status of some of these markets which are entirely in the hands of associations with lease titles. The order did not affect our markets,” Ssemmpijja said.
He said the minister hired men who stormed their offices and vandalised all their property. The men, according to Ssempijja, stole money, took away their ledger books of accounts and other valuables.
Nassolo said the leaders who were disbanded contributed their savings to secure a lease and were hoping to start building a modern market. She asked the President to appoint another team to investigate and get to the core of the matter.
You need to know
The leaders from Nakasero handed Nakalema a notice written by their lawyer on November 25, giving Kampala Capital City Authority 10 days to reverse their decision to take over their offices or face court action.
According to the notice, Nakasero Market is no longer a property of government, but lawfully owned and managed by the association of the vendors in accordance with the constitution of Nakasero Market Sitting Vendors and Traders Ltd.