Jinja — Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) has given about 2,000 traders in Amber Court Market in Jinja Municipality a three-month ultimatum to vacate the area or be forced out.
In a September 18 letter to the municipal council, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Ms Rosette Byengoma, says the land on which the market sits belongs to the UPDF and is part of Gadhafi Barracks.
The letter also indicates that the army want to use the land for "military activities".
"This letter, therefore, serves as an eviction notice to all operators of the market on this land who should stop their operations and are expected to have vacated the land within a period of three months from the date of issuance of this notice," the letter reads in part.
Accordingly, Ms Byengoma adds that the UPDF will immediately take possession of the land at the expiry of the said period and any person operating on it will be forcibly evicted.
The letter is copied to the Local Government minister, the Chief of Defence Forces, the chairperson Military Land Board, the commandant Land Forces and Jinja District officials.
Ms Rose Nasiwa, a clothes dealer in the market, urged the UPDF to give them more time to prepare where to go.
"I have operated from this market since 2005 and it is where I get school fees and food for my children. Let the UPDF give us enough time to find where to go. I am not a single mother but my husband neglected his responsibility," she laments.
Ms Winnie Katuzi, another trader, says she has worked in the market for six years and has a bank loan, which she is supposed to clear within five months.
"Will I be able to clear the loan within the three-month ultimatum? We need more time at least to first clear the loans and I also have children to take care of. Let Jinja municipal council and the UPDF agree so that we can be given more time to find where to go," she says.
Mr Ayubu Kitamirike, who deals in beverages, says evicting them from the market will adversely affect the future of his seven school-going children.
The vice chairperson of the market, Mr Laston Ngobi, says they have not yet received the UDPF letter but they are still waiting for communication from Jinja Municipal Council.
Mr Ngobi adds that the 2,000 vendors have families to fend for and evicting them before another place is secured will create unemployment.
The municipality spokesperson, Mr Rajjab Kitto, says the council will sit and establish where to relocate the traders.
"This issue concerns thousands of people working and benefiting from the market; so we just cannot act. We have to first sit as Council and decide a way forward because this issue is beyond one office," he said.