Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Just four days after Gulu City council authorities launched a mass eviction of individuals conducting businesses in ungazetted spaces, normalcy appears to have returned on the major streets within the city center and the Main Market.
Pedestrian walkways and pavements on major streets of Acholi lane, Bank lane, Awere Road, Cemetery Road, and Gulu Highway that had been turned into business arenas and bus stops, have since been vacated.
This follows the eviction of hundreds of street vendors, and roadside transporters on Friday last week. The traders were evicted by Gulu City law enforcement personnel backed by UPDF soldiers in a move aimed at restoring trade order.
The eviction stems from a directive issued by the Gulu City Clerk, Isiah Tumwesigye last week banning businesses along the streets, pavements, walkways, verandahs, backstreets, and corridors within the city effective July 1, 2022.
On Monday, Tumwesigye re-echoed to Uganda Radio Network in an interview that they will not relent on the new directive that seeks to ensure traders utilize the available designated business spaces.
He says any trader who will return to the streets will have their goods impounded and be arrested and prosecuted in courts of law.
According to Tumwesigye, there are enough taxi and bus parks, shops, and designated markets that can accommodate the majority of the evicted individuals yet they choose to work from the streets.
He says whereas the implementation is just days old, they won’t back down on their decision and downplayed claims that the eviction will be short-lived like other past threats issued. Gulu City council has issued numerous threats in the past seeking to wipe out roadside businesses on grounds that it was affecting revenue collection and breeding insecurity.
Despite dozens of eviction exercises, the implementation hasn’t been consistent on unclear grounds. Andrew Ogwetta Otto, the Pece-Laroo Division Councilor in Gulu City believes that the current eviction is not sustainable since there is no clear plan taken by the city authorities to enforce it for a longer duration.
Ogwetta says the city councilors were not consulted on the move to evict the traders and notes that there is limited enforcement personnel on the ground who won’t be able to cover the vast city center during implementation. He says that the unplanned eviction is sparking outrage from the affected people arguing that the implementers will succumb to their pressure soon.
But Tumesigye notes that they have enough resources and manpower to implement the directive, adding that they also intend to employ more enforcement officers.
Robert Komakech, the Bardege-Layibi Division speaker however notes that for the new trade order to be effective, the city council authorities must ensure they provide reliable solar lighting to vendors at Gulu Main Market.
Koamech says vendors who occupy the basement of the market have avoided the space due to darkness on days when there is an electricity blackout. “If the power issues are not addressed at the basement, then vendors will continue to sell outside the market because it’s dark when there is no electricity,” He says.
The eviction has generated mixed reactions among those affected and some of the market leaders in the city. Beatrice Atim, who was dealing in second-hand clothes is among hundreds of vendors evicted from the parking space outside the Gulu Main Market last week.
Atim says for four days since the eviction, she has failed to get space for business arguing that the decision has affected her earnings. Eric Otim, a second-hand shoe dealer, who was also evicted from the Gulu Main Market parking lot, says the decision was conducted hurriedly without giving them ample time to find alternative business space.
He notes that the markets being suggested by city officials are fully occupied while others are in remote locations unfavorable for businesses. But Nixon Komakech, the Principal Commercial Officer in Gulu City says the eviction exercise serves as an advantage for the city council in terms of revenue collection.
He says the city council used to collect between 52 to 56 million shillings monthly as revenue from Gulu Main Market due to the low numbers of vendors occupying the lockups and stalls. Komakech says they are hopeful that the revenue collection may rise up to 89 million shillings monthly once the space is fully occupied as most vendors are returning to the market.
UPDF soldiers deployed on the directives of the Gulu Resident City Commissioner have maintained a heavy presence in all spots previously occupied by street vendors in a bid to enforce the new trade order. The city council authorities have since directed the affected vendors and roadside transporters to occupy business spaces at Gulu Main Market, Kabedopong Market, Wilobo Market, Layibi Central Market, Lamogi ber bus terminal, Gulu Main bus park, and the new terminal at the former Abattoir.