By Naboth Isaac Niwagaba
The former occupants of the Kabale Central Market have risen in protest against the sets of procedures issued to guide their resettlement in the newly constructed market facility.
The new facility is being constructed at a cost of 23 billion shillings by the Chinese Chong Chuing International Construction Company under the World Bank-funded Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Program III (MATIP III). According to Kabale Municipal authorities, construction has neared completion, and the government was expected to commission it before the end of this year.
When construction started in December 2019, traders were relocated to the Kabale Police Barracks playground in Kigongi’s central division and others to the Mwanjari Business Center in the southern division. This was after the Kabale Municipal Council authorities made a memorandum of understanding with the lock-up owners, assuring them that the lock-ups would be given back in the new market so that the owners would resume business in line with the 49-year occupational permits they had been given.
However, a section of traders is protesting the new guidelines, which deny them re-possession of the lock-ups. According to the resettlement guidelines, the Kabale Municipal Council is the landlord in the new market, and unlike the previous arrangement, everyone else will be a tenant.
In a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Local Government on Friday last week, the Kabale Central Market Traders Association, led by Canon Joshua Mutekanga, accused the government of issuing guidelines that disregard the MOU they made with Kabale Municipal Council.
One of the former lock-up owners, Owen Kasimba, argued that the government was supposed to compensate them for the remaining time on their occupational permits if the lock-ups were to be fully owned by the Kabale Municipal Council. Kasimba said they had obtained bank loans to buy the lock-ups, which cost them between $48 and $70 million, while others built new structures in the old market.
Benjamin Mayanja protested the guideline allocating only one lockup for each vendor, saying that some of them owned five or six lockups in the old market.
Richard Muhanguzi said they were ready to seek court redress challenging the new guidelines if the government was not willing to amend them.
However, the Community Development Program Assistant at the Ministry of Local Government MATIP Project, Prossy Tuhireirwe, said that the new guidelines were binding and not amendable because they had been reviewed by vendors across the country before they were approved by the solicitor general and finally signed by the permanent secretary.
The Kabale Municipality Mayor, Sentaro Byamugisha, read a letter that he had written to the office of the Attorney General, requesting guidance on the matter concerning the MOU that they made with former lock-up owners.