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City landlords defy Museveni’s directive to reopen arcades

Uganda’s Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Hon. Amelia Kyambadde has expressed dismay with a section of landlords in Kampala who she accuses of defying President Museveni’s directive to allow for safe re-opening of arcades.

Although Museveni, on Tuesday, July 21, Okayed with immediate effect the reopening of at least 113 arcades, many city traders who operate in the arcades say they have been unable to access their shops after the landlords locked them up for failure to agree on the rent arrears due.

“We are grateful to government about reopening. But some landlords have refused to open buildings and shops. They sealed up some shops, while other arcades are under lock and key, such as Jumbo Apo plaza here in Nabugabo. So, while they are reopening arcades, we have no access to these buildings,” said Katongole Godfrey, the Chairman Kampala Arcaders Traders Association.

Katongole says that although the traders presented the matter before government, through the steering committee tasked with reopening arcades, they are yet to receive any answers from the authorities.

“We do not have money to pay rent for the past more than four months during which we have not been working. We request government to expedite negotiations with landlords to unlock the shops so that we can resume work,” Katongole said.

Addressing the media on the same matters at Uganda Media Centre Yesterday, Amelia Kyambadde said talks between government and arcade owners about reopening buildings sealed off from tenants had hit a a gridlock.

“We have been engaging the landlords ever since the lockdown began, to discount the arrears they require from their tenants or exempt them from paying altogether. But this is very private; the landlords say, ‘You (government) were not there when we agreed terms with our tenants, so why don’t you leave us to negotiate with them?’” Kyambadde said.

Non-compliant arcades to stay closed

The Trade minister further revealed that during inspection of over 230 arcades in Kampala by government- an exercise intended to ascertain which arcades should be reopened- some landlords were unresponsive to calls to have their buildings assessed. 

At least 59 arcades dishonoured government’s call for inspections, while 58 failed to comply with SOPs for safe reopening. Only 113 arcades met the required conditions.

Among the set conditions, traders are now required to have a record book detailing their customers’ contacts, temperature guns, clean toilet facilities, good ventilation and lighting inside the building, sanitizers and hand washing kits.

In addition, they are to wear masks at all times, observe social distancing and turn off air conditioners in their shops. 

“Arcades that fail to comply will remain closed indefinitely, until they comply with the Standard Operating Procedures,” Kyambadde reassured.

Promoting Ugandan-made goods

In his latest address, the president expressed displeasure with many traders in arcades for only selling Chinese products instead of locally produced goods. 

“These arcade fellows have been importing goods from China for over 30 years, never thinking of building factories here. Although they’re opening, these arcades must start working on producing these products locally. They should shift to selling products made from here,” Museveni said.

President Museveni said this practice takes jobs and incomes from Ugandans and gives them to foreigners. Attempts to have the Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) directly respond to this matter were futile by press time.

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