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Government, Kisekka market vendors disagree on compensation

Some of the vendors at the land where part of demolished Kisekka Market was

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  As government moves to repossess some of its markets, it has still failed to come to an understanding with a section of vendors who acquired a sub-lease on Kisekka Market land.

A number of vendors say government should compensate them before they take over the land while the latter insists they will first acquire the land as they discuss compensation. 

Over 1858 vendors organized under the Nakivubo Road Old Kampala (Kisekka) Market Vendors Ltd acquired a sub-lease due for expiry in July 2021.

Today, during a meeting with the Minister for Kampala and Metropolitan Affairs, Betty Amongi and several top officials from Kampala Capital City Authority- KCCA, the vendors said they would not leave the land unless they first compensated.

Amongi told them “This is government land, I don’t want you to go out saying this is your land.”  

“Please I advise you, do not threaten government, do not blackmail government,” she added before closing the meeting as vendors murmured in defiance.

The officials had convened the meeting to communicate a 25th September 2020 presidential directive to take over all government markets. The president said all leadership in 16 government markets be dissolved and new elections conducted. He cited the poor leadership there, multiple charge of fees, high charge of utility bills and charge for toilet use among others to back his directive.

Amongi said government would implement the presidential directive immediately but added that those who had invested in the land would be compensated after proper valuation something that did not go well with many vendors.

Robert Kisembo Kasolo, who heads the vendors under the company paid Shillings 1.5 billion to Kampala City Council as premium for the sublease and pay Shillings 76 million annually in ground rent since 2010. He asked when the compensation will be coming in since government has decided to take over the land.

He says they have never closed doors to other vendors who want to join, dismissing claims that they sidelined other vendors and gave room to factions.

For years Kisekka market vendors have existed under two factions. In 2017, president Museveni asked them to unite and form a company such that government would let them manage the market themselves. At that time, government compensated Rhino Company that had secured a lease on the same land and gave it to the vendors.

However, a section of vendors said they had been left out when the Kisembo led company was formed and acquired a sub-lease. These are led by Geoffrey Kayita who says apart from asking for registration fees of Shillings 50,000, the company asked members to contribute millions of shillings which many didn’t have.

But members of the company insist that since they made payments to government as per the 2010 sublease, they shall only leave after they have been compensated satisfactorily.

One member of the company, Wilson Kabarole says he has invested over Shilling 100 million in the project and cannot leave unless he is compensated.

Mubaraka Walusimbi, another member of the company accused government of playing politics with their livelihood. He says government gave them the land and it was upon the vendors to join the company which some of them did. But rather than encourage the rest to join, they are instead taking over the land sub-leased to the company.

Geoffrey Kayita, the chairman of the vendors opposed to the Kisembo led company says that over 322 vendors were de-registered from the company after they failed to raise millions of shilling as share to the company. He says it is the role of government to provide operating space for vendors and hence the land should be taken back into government hands.

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