KCCA, OPM Respond to Museveni to Revise Allocation of Market Space

Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA and the office of the Prime Minister plan to revise the allocation of working space to vendors in City markets, so that in accordance with President Yoweri Museveni’s guidance, it is small business owners and not big business owners who are accommodated.

President Museveni recently raised concern that several rich people (owning big business) are occupying City markets intended for small business operators.

Although president Museveni holds a view that Markets should be an incubation center where people start up with small business and grow to run big businesses elsewhere, there are large businesses in the markets, something he says is wrong. 

Earlier this week, Museveni met with officials from the Ministry for Kampala and Metropolitan Affairs and from KCCA and told them that City markets should be owned and run by the small business owners he refers to as muntu wawansi ( common man).

Museveni said in a message on his Social Media handle: “Why are the rich controlling these markets? The common people should be the beneficiaries, let the rich not exploit our poor people in these markets by charging high/ unnecessary fees. These mistakes came from past Kampala leaders, who got obutale bwa’abanaku ( poor people’s markets) and gave them to the rich. This should stop immediately.” 

He says that these “small” markets in Kampala are not a business for the rich and that they- the rich should go elsewhere and leave the poor people trying to make a living for their families to “prosper peacefully”. 

“I ask our leaders in KCCA and all stakeholders elsewhere to prioritize our poor people while making some of these decisions,” added Museveni. “For instance, the people you have been chasing off roads have been saying they have nowhere to go, so if you do not plan for them where will they go?”

Currently, there is no limit to how big one’s business should be for them to acquire working space in these City markets. This is seen to favour big business owners against small start up businesses as the earlier acquire working space at a cheap cost and run big businesses leaving small business owners for whom the markets are intended, with no where to operate.

Now Henry Bukenya, the KCCA manager Commercial Services says that following the guidance from the President and with the leadership of the Prime Minister, they shall ensure that people who have big businesses in Markets like Nakasero and others which are intended for the small business relocate to other business areas.

“There are some businesses in billions of shillings in these markets like Nakasero. They will have to move to other places like Arcades to create room for small business owners like vendors evicted from streets to also get a place to operate,” said Bukenya in an interview with the Uganda Radio Network. 

In markets like Nakasero and St. Balikuddembe  -commonly known as the Owino market  – there are big businesses like wholesale shops and hardware shops thought to be in hundreds of millions sometimes billions. However, there is no known criteria yet that government intends to use to identify businesses that should stay in the city markets and those that should relocate to arcades and other large scale Business centers.

Two markets, Nakasero and Owino have for long been entangled in ownership wrangles with some vendors saying that they acquired lease on the market land. In Owino, some vendors had constructed 750 Lock-up shops having entered a 15 years lease agreement with the de facto Kampala City Council-KCC starting January 1999 to January 2014. 

In 2020, when President Museveni ordered KCCA to repossess all city markets, vendors, some of whom had invested in the construction of Lockups opposed the move, although KCCA eventually took them over and installed new Interim leadership. In Owino, such vendors who now doubled as landlords continued collecting rent, despite the expiry of their leases. 

This year in July, Susan Kushaba, the Interim Chairperson of Owino told vendors to stop paying rent to the landlords since their lease had expired. But Kushaba, who was also part of the team that met with the president this week says that some landlords have continued to disturb vendors claiming for rent.

“We got a lawyer for the vendors, but they disturb them,” said Kushaba in an interview with the URN. “The problem is these politicians who encourage the rich people – the said landlords.”

Before President Museveni directed KCCA to repossess public city markets, he had earlier encouraged vendors to get involved in developing their own markets, giving birth to the lease agreements that KCC entered with several vendors associations.

The City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago in reaction to Museveni’s current directive to have small business owners occupy markets said that this is what he has been advocating for but government chose to call him all sorts of names. 

Lukwago, who was a strong critic of former market leadership who were said to have amassed wealth at the expense of small business owners says the markets should be left to the urban poor. His continued call is to plan for all categories of people, establish more suitable markets and have the urban poor availed with proper working space.

President Museveni further suggests that two City markets be constructed in each of the five divisions of Kampala, something Henry Bukenya, KCCA manager Commercial Services says is in line with their plan. Bukenya adds that the President’s reiteration to have two markets per division is a reminder to those who budget to prioritise allocation of funds to implement the plan to construct the markets. This way, Bukenya says they shall not only create working space for vendors evicted from the streets but also those who are being exploited in private markets. Currently, government doesn’t charge dues from vendors in the City Markets.

Meanwhile, KCCA is working on an ordinance which shall guide how City Markets are managed, how the leadership is elected and the fees paid by the vendors occupying space in the market. There is also a private member’s bill on Market that is before Parliament.

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