Can Hamis Kiggundu deliver on his promise?
Ham Shopping Grounds is a tiny concrete cream building, often called a mall, about half the size of standard football pitch with four floors and flat concrete roof-top right at the edge of Uganda’s oldest sports arena; the Nakivubo Memorial Stadium.
The stadium was named after Ugandan veterans who fought in the Great World War II in the 1940s. It was built soon after the war ended in an area which has become the heart of Kampala city down, with narrow crowded streets, one of the largest markets in East Africa called Balikudembe Market or Owino, taxi parks, bus parks, noise, dust, and crime.
Until recently, Ham Gounds has offered an improved version of the general area with numerous tiny cubicle-like rooms on all floors with counters at the front behind which shopkeepers vended household items, food stuffs, clothes and household utensils, and other knick knacks with the largest store on the building being the New City Supermarket transacting general merchandise.
Recently, however, Ham Grounds has got new tenants.
They are a bunch of vendors said to be about 1,000 recently evicted from the popular Nakivubo Park Yard market now relocated to the Ham Grounds rooftop concrete terrace. It is an ironical twist because the owner of Ham Shopping Grounds, Hamis Kiggundu, a 33-year old man with bags of new money and little known business background, led the eviction of the people.
Standing on the Ham Ground top floor, which is covered with a pinkish iron roof, one can see the area formerly occupied by the park yard market.
If one had visited it just a week before Feb. 27 when the market was razed in the wee-hours of the night, one would have seen a colourful, noisy open ground crammed with make-shift wooden stall around which over 10,000 traders vended mainly clothing items, second-hand shoes, bags, textiles and more.
Today, it is a neat lifeless ground of leveled brown earth with a lone grader. Soon it might grow into bush. It is sealed off with green color painted iron sheets and under heavy police guard.
The eviction has sparked public uproar and Hamis Kiggundu has launched a major charm offensive and offering space on his building free to the vendors is part of that.
Kiggundu offered free space for 1,000 traders at the shopping mall for the next six months before vendors start paying rent that would be negotiated later. He has also paid for close to 1,000 stalls in another nearby market – Usafi to accommodate another group affected by the same eviction for the next six months.
These numbers were shared by Kiggundu’s manager, Abdu K. Musoke in an interview with The Independent.
But the traders remain calm but angry and we discovered when we visited in the morning of Monday March 06.
It started when we attempted to speak to one of the vendors who looked in her 30s and calm as she sat beside her merchandise. Her head tilted slightly to the right, resting on the palm of her right hand was the only sign of pensive pain.