Mbarara market vendors want allocation of stalls halted

MBARARA – Fracas erupted in Mbarara City on Thursday as market vendors demonstrated, accusing their leaders of delayed and poor allocation of the stalls and kiosks available in the newly constructed Mbarara Central Market. They now want the allocation of the stalls stopped to create room for identifying the right people to take up the stalls.

Rosette Asasira, one of the vendors running a boutique in Mbarara Central market for the last 18 years told this reporter that she is among the vendors missing out on the list of over 1000 vendors to be resettled in the market.

“I joined Mbarara central market since 2004, I am the tenant for the council, my landlord is the council, we made an agreement with it that after construction, we would reallocate to our facility but surprisingly with all the official documents I have been tossed from the market yet some of the traders who were not vendors, but with duplicated papers have already gotten over four kiosks in our market,” Asasira said.

Asasira alleged that new stalls and shops are being occupied by tycoons who can afford rental space in arcades and malls.

She accused the market chairperson Muhammad Nyombi of conniving with the city council leadership to sell new spaces to already established business people in Mbarara town.

Shakila Mutesi, also a vendor dealing in the fruit business, said she was surprised when the stalls allocation committee asked her to present a document in order to be resettled in the new market.

“I have been in the central market for over 5 years, my name appeared on the vendors’ list which was pinned yesterday but when I went for the ruffle exercise, I was asked to present the papers which we were not given at all,” Mutesi cried.

She appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to intervene in the matter.

“We are now desperate because we don’t have where to operate from. So we are appealing to the president to intervene before the matter worsens,” Mutesi said.

The market chairman Nyombi when asked about the accusations labeled against him, denied participating in the allocation of the kiosks and stalls in the market.

“With the market vendors’ registration and resettlement guide, I don’t appear anywhere because it clearly states that the vendors shall form the majority on the allocation committee, each enterprise section of the market represented by 2 persons (male and female) who are popularly elected on the committee, excluding the Chairperson of the Vendor’s Association,” Nyombi said.

Nyombi instead blamed the allocation committee for betraying their vendors.

“I don’t appear anywhere in the allocation process, vendors should instead accuse their leaders representing them on the allocation committee who have disappointed them but not me the chairman,” Nyombi said.

He however said the matter can be resolved. “It’s not yet too late there is still a chance to get a facility in the new market if they address their issues to the rightful leaders. So if there is any complaint related to the facility, it should be addressed to the allocations committee not the chairman,” he said, confirming that there are many vendors who are missing on the list and that they could be kicked out of the new market.

According to Lydia Karungi, a Senior Community Development Officer in the Ministry of Local government in charge of relocation, the relocation exercise is going to be concluded by the close of this week.

Karungi said she was worried a big number of vendors could be left out.

“By the look of things, a total of about 350 vendors could miss because the space is getting finished yet an overwhelming number is still complaining. She said the allocation will end on Monday but that she will brief the public on the matter.

When contacted, Lt Col. James Mwesigye, the Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Mbarara, said that the market saga was caused by the vendors’ leadership and city leaders who sold some of the lockups and stalls to business people who were not vendors before.

“There are three sections of people in the market saga which include vendors who originally occupied the old market, then those who were registered later to get space, and those who sold their space. And the worst part of it is the vendors’ chairman would sign to confirm the sale and the commercial officer would stamp that some vendors are now claiming to be the landlords for the council’s land where the new market is seated,” Mwesigye said.

He has however constituted an appeals committee to look into issues of the complainants and verify ghost vendors who are claiming to have already got space in the redeveloped central market.

“We thought that vendors themselves, would easily identify their colleagues who were operating within the old market but after verification, vendors have continued complaining. So we have formed the appeals committee where the DISO and my deputy are going to verify the list which council based on to allocate the stalls and kiosks so as to establish the truth of the matter,” Mwesigye said.

“We request patience and discipline, we don’t want people to demonstrate, what matters is to get the real people occupying the market; when to occupy is not the problem, we only want to see things moving on well,” he said.

However, some of the aggrieved vendors insisted that the allocation of stalls and lockups in the redeveloped market be halted until the court case is disposed of.

Joy Night Mpiirwe, Chairperson of the aggrieved Kiosk Owners said they were allocated land to construct Kiosks by the then Mbarara Municipal Council in 1989 and were fully given the powers as bonafide occupants on the same land.

Raphael Magyezi, the Minister for Local Government while commissioning the redeveloped market day ago confirmed that it belongs to Mbarara City Council but not the Kiosk Owners Association.

The wrangle between the then Mbarara Municipality and traders over the ownership of Mbarara central market started in 2014 affecting plans to redevelop it in 2010 under the Markets and Agriculture Trade Improvement Project (MATIP) funded by USD 84.2 million (about Shs284b) loan sourced from the African Development Bank (ADB) and USD 9.52 million (about Shs32b) contributed by the government to alleviate poverty and improvement of agricultural trade.

Kiosk owners successfully petitioned the High Court Mbarara and placed a caveat on the land, which delayed the construction until 2018 when it commenced.

The said market accommodates 1151 vendors housing different facilities that include; lockups (552), stalls (256), pitches (167), food court, restaurant, daycare, installed CCTV cameras, fire fighting system, modern toilets, showers, Police post, children’s care centre, an office block, and water harvesting tanks among others.

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