Vendors in Entebbe’s Kitooro market have resolved to drag President Yoweri Museveni into their wrangles with municipal authorities over the high rates being charged.
They made the decision during a meeting at the market on Wednesday after months of protracted disputes with the management of Entebbe Municipal Council. The meeting was attended by the Deputy Resident Commissioner of Entebbe, Jacqueline Kankunda, the District Police Commander, Vincent Irama, the Deputy Mayor of Entebbe, Carles Kabwama, and technocrats from Division B. Most of the vendors complained that the division and Entebbe Municipal Councils were not willing to lower the prices.
The meeting was held after the Special Forces Command-SFC soldiers blocked vendors from marching to Entebbe Municipal Council on Wednesday afternoon. At nearby Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation (UPPC), the vendors were stopped and led back to Kitooro market, where an unplanned meeting was held.
During the meeting, vendors led by Sam Kutesa noted that many of them had vacated the market over the said rates. Kitooro market has 1,075 spaces for stalls and lock-up shops, but fewer than 300 vendors currently occupy spaces in the market. The council projects to collect over one billion shillings from rent by the end of the 2022/2023 financial year.
According to the rates set by the council, traders with stalls for food, fresh vegetables, fish, fruits, and charcoal pay between 20,000 and 30,000 Shillings, while those with butcheries and chicken cages make 80,000 Shillings per month.
Traders occupying lock-up shops pay between 120,000 and 490,000 shillings depending on the location of the shop.
The Kitooro market is one of the 12 modern markets constructed under the Markets and Agriculture Trade Improvement Projects-MATIP-2 Program. Other markets are Busia, Masaka, Kasese, Arua, Soroti, Mbarara, Moroto, Tororo, Lugazi, Kitgum, and Kabale.
The market was reconstructed at a cost of 24 billion shillings and was commissioned last year by President Museveni. The Municipal Council gave vendors a grace period of three months when they relocated to the reconstructed market last July. As a result, vendors were expected to start paying rent in September 2021.
The division council told all vendors that they had to pay off their debts before their leases, which had ended on July 30, could be renewed.
But the vice chairman of the vendors, Abubaker Bukenya, says that leaders and technocrats in Division B haven’t done anything about their problems, which are high prices and the fact that there are street vendors near the market.
Bukenya added that booming weekly markets in Kitooro and Entebbe municipality have pushed some vendors out of Kitooro market because “people do not shop inside the market and yet vendors have to pay rent. He wants rates reduced to 10,000 shillings for all stalls and a maximum of 100,000 shillings for lock-up shops because they used to pay between 4,000 and 7,000 shillings per month for stalls and kiosks, respectively, before the reconstruction of the market.
Market Chairman Ronald Kusambira agrees, saying it is unfair as vendors are making losses and leaders are not listening or doing anything to restore trade order. However, Kusambira says the Deputy RDC wants to meet the market leaders and technocrats in one week over the matter.
But Kutesa insists the best option is for some vendors to petition Museveni next Monday.
Kutesa also wants a committee set up to renegotiate the rates and revise the terms of the tenancy agreements, which run for a year.
They want Museveni to intervene because they have petitioned Division B leaders, Entebbe Town Clerk Charles Magumba, over four times now, and the Minister for Local Government, Raphael Magyezi, earlier this year. Julius Musoke, a vendor of fresh fruits and vegetables, says, “We have petitioned all these people in vain. So we need to meet President Museveni about our problems.
In March, Entebbe Town Clerk Magumba said monthly collections since September 2021 have been dismal. He noted that the majority of the vendors failed or deliberately refused to pay rent, while others abandoned the market over high fees.
The Assistant Town Clerk for Division B told Uganda Radio Network-URN in July that nothing had changed. He said that the council is collecting less than 25 million shillings per month compared to the projected 285 million shillings per month.