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Taxi operators, vendors fight over Usafi market space

Usafi market.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A disagreement has erupted between taxi operators and vendors in Usafi over the land hosting the market. Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA opened Usafi market in 2013 to host street vendors and hawkers on one side and a taxi park with taxis plying mainly the Entebbe route on the other side.

The thinking was that the market and the park would complement each other. However, the market vendors and the taxi operators have for long complained about the lack of customers, saying potential clients resorted to boarding from the Old or New taxi parks to beat the distance from the city center to Usafi market.

Despite efforts by KCCA, several taxis meant to use Usafi park have continued to operate on the streets around Nasser road, Clocktower, and Entebbe road further crippling business in Usafi where complaint taxi operators stage. To remedy the situation, the operators asked KCCA to break Usafi market and move taxis to that location, arguing that the park is hidden and perhaps that’s why passengers don’t go there.

Information also started circulating among Usafi market vendors that indeed taxi operators were already working with KCCA to demolish the market. This prompted a group of vendors to storm KCCA on Wednesday to petition the Executive Director Dorothy Kisaka.

Faridah Namayanja, one of the market vendors who petitioned KCCA, says that they heard about the move to evict them more than a month back and reported the matter to the Deputy Resident City Commissioner for Kampala Central, Yasin Ndidde who promised to respond in a week’s time in vain. She says that they decided to visit Ndidde’s office again on Wednesday and he told them to seek answers from the KCCA Deputy Executive Director, David Luyimbazi who held a meeting with the taxi operators the previous day. Namayanja says that they decided to petition the Executive Director’s office to save their market from a section of taxi operators plotting to raze it down and put up a taxi park.

Muhammad Seggwanyi, the spokesperson of Usafi market vendors says that they asked the Deputy Executive Director to visit the market and assure the vendors that their market shall not be demolished. He added that the taxi operators who want to take over the market land had claimed that the park lacked proper roads and hence the need for taxis to occupy the plot used by market vendors because it’s closer to Entebbe road.

Vendors say they have endured challenges in the market and worked hard to attract customers hence taking away their market would be unfair, adding that they were not ready to lose their market without a fight.

However, Ali Lukyamuzi, the Vice Chairperson of Usafi taxi park insists that the space they are seeking is government land and vendors shouldn’t act like they offered refuge to the taxi operators. Lukyamuzi denied claims that the taxi operators want to remove the market but admitted that there is a proposal to relocate the park to the front plot where the market is with the hope that the park shall then receive more passengers.

David Luyimbazi, the Deputy KCCA Executive Director who had to visit the market told vendors that KCCA had no plans of moving the market from its current location. He said that the authority shall enforce order among taxis meant to operate from Usafi park such that they don’t stage on streets.

Yasin Ndidde, the Deputy Resident City Commissioner also assured the vendors that their market shall not be relocated and that any developments on the market shall only be done with their involvement.

Usafi market and park sit on 6.18 acres of land which the government bought in 2014 from Safinet (U) Ltd, a company owned by businessman Umar Ssekamatte at 39.4 billion shillings before the cost increased to 43 billion after KCCA failed to make payment on time and was fined 3.6 billion shillings.

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