A plan by government to take over all public markets in the capital, Kampala, has stalled following leadership wrangles and compensation-related issues.
Daily Monitor has established that whereas the take over has been smooth in some of the public markets, leaders in the three big markets which were previously leased to traders under their different associations, have vowed not to vacate the facilities.
The three markets are St Balikuddembe (Owino), Kisekka and Nakasero, all located in the heart of the city .
Information gathered by this newspaper shows that whereas some factions in these markets have run to court to block the take over, others argue that the exercise is a relief to majority traders who have been allegedly exploited for a very long time.
However, the take over has sparked tension in the city with those opposed to the plan threatening to demonstrate against what they call 'unfair' dismissal from the facilities.
The opponents of the plan claim that they still have running leases and it would be unfair for government to evict them from the facilities before compensating them.
For instance, the tense situation at St Balikuddembe (Owino) market has compelled the authorities to deploy police officers to contain any demonstrations that may arise from the agitated faction of traders who are opposed to the take over.
In an interview with Daily Monitor on Monday, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) manager of commercial services, Mr Henry Bukenya, confirmed that they are currently unable to take over the three markets due to pending court cases.
However, he adds that KCCA has already installed interim leadership in other public markets, including Luzira, Kiswa, Nakawa, Bugobi, Bukoto, Kamwokya, Wandegeya, Usafi, Kinawataka, Nateete, Kasubi, and the city abattoir.
Busega and Kintintale markets are still under construction.
"We are currently sensitizing and training the interim leaders in these facilities on issues of proper management because it is our mandate as KCCA to play a supervisory role since they are public facilities," Mr Bukenya said.
Although Mr Bukenya acknowledged the wrangles in the other three big markets, he declined to delve into details, saying he cannot discuss issues which are before court.
He said their lawyers are following up on the matter and that they will wait for court's decision before they can take over the contentious markets.
The facility which covers about 8.5 acres of land was constructed in 1971 at Nakivubo. Initially, Owino market was managed by the Kampala City Council (KCC), the KCCA predecessor, until May 31, 1995 when vendors took over the management.
On October 31, 2002, KCC dissolved the vendors leadership and handed over the market to city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba under his Victoria International Company which managed the market from November 2002 to 2006.
On January 19, 2009, President Museveni ordered that the land on which the market sits be leased to the vendors. The Attorney General was asked to ensure that all vendors form a legal association.
Some vendors formed St Balikuddembe Market Stalls, Space and Lock-ups Owners Association (SSLOA) and obtained a lease offer on February 3, 2010 from KCC at a premium of Shs4b and ground rent at Shs200m.
However following continuous wrangles among rival groups in the facility, Cabinet last year resolved that government takes over Owino and other markets which had been leased out to the traders associations to eliminate all manipulative leaders.
Last month, the SSLOA leadership was asked to step down to pave way for the implementation of Cabinet directive as KCCA embarked on the take over exercise.
Some traders who were opposed to SSLOA's leadership elected Ms Susan Kushaba as their interim chairperson while the latter chose to go to court to block the take over.
The SSLOA chairperson, Mr Godfrey Kayongo, told Daily Monitor on Monday that government is being misled by people who do not care about the plight of ordinary city traders.
Mr Kayongo noted that they (SSLOA) had already got financiers to bankroll the construction of a standard market.
"Government had sold out this market to Basajjabalaba but we fought hard to recover it. So why is it forcefully taking over the facility at a time when we are already set to redevelop it? I don't think that the plan is to help the ordinary city traders because the way they are handling the matter is really suspicious," he said.
He also wondered why government kicked them out of the facility before compensating them yet Basajjabalaba was first compensated.
But Ms Kushaba claimed that SSLOA has been collecting revenue from the facility without accountability. This, she said, validates government's take over of the facility.
"We have been demanding accountability from SSLOA ever since they took over leadership but they never presented any. We believe that when these markets are managed by government there will be sanity," she said.
Ms Kushaba asked Mr Kayongo to respect the court process instead of threatening to hold demonstrations.
The traders at Nakasero acquired a 49-year lease from KCCA at Shs2b and were required to pay annual ground rent of Shs90m.
Although KCCA recently installed an interim executive to manage the facility, some traders who previously worked under the old leadership have since protested the plan.
The traders argue that they were never consulted on the changes yet they have a running lease on the land and that the abrupt take over by government will cause them losses.
Through their lawyer Paul Kenneth Kakande, the traders are demanding Shs300b if government is to repossess both the land and the facility.
Mr Kakande said although the law allows government to take over land, the exercise has to be carried out following legal procedure which involves compensation of occupants who already have rights over the land.
Asked about how they arrived at the Shs300b compensation, Mr Kakande said Nakasero market is not only located in a prime area but is also a business entity, with more than 5,000 traders
"Traders have a lease which is still running and hence have a legitimate expectation from that land that's why they contributed money to acquire the lease. So if you are compensating them you have to do so in line with their legitimate expectation of what they could get in 49 years," he said.
Kisekka market, which measures 3.7 acres of land, had initially been leased by KCC to Col John Mugyenyi through Rhino Investments Company.
In 2009, President Museveni ordered cancellation of the lease following protests from traders.
Mr Mugenyi was compensated with Shs14.9b.
Later, the President advised traders in Kisekka market to form and register one legal entity with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) so that KCC could give them a lease for the land.
The traders then formed the Nakivubo Road Old Kampala (Kisekka) Market Vendors Limited with a membership of 1,888 which became a company limited by guarantee.
On October 25, 2011, KCCA gave them a five-year initial sub-lease up to August 20, 2016.
One of the conditions KCCA gave the traders was to fulfil construction requirements within five years so that their lease could be extended for 49 years.
The association led by Mr Robert Kasoro commenced construction works but would later be challenged by a rival faction which accused the former of incompetence and misappropriation of funds.
Led by Mr Geoffrey Kayita, the faction successfully challenged Mr Kasoro's leadership in court.
Although court directed that the Kayita-led faction should redevelop the remaining part of the land to cater for traders who had missed out on the first project Mr Kasoro reportedly defied court on grounds that traders had already contributed money to redevelop the entire land. To date, the leadership wrangle in Kisekka market persist.
On government's plan to take over the facility, Mr Kasoro said they cannot handover the facility unless they are compensated.
"If Col Mugyenyi was compensated Shs14b just within one year after he paid Shs1.4b then government must also compensate with money equivalent to the resources we have spent on the project and the years of our lease," he said.
But Mr Kayita said if government takes over the facility, traders who had been alienated from the project will benefit.
"There should be a win-win situation because if there is vacant land then why not allow government to redevelop it for those who didn't benefit from the first project where their spaces were sold to the rich?" he asked.
Govt speaks out
In a telephone interview yesterday, the State Minister for Kampala Capital City Authority, Ms Benny Namugwanya Bugembe, said government has embarked on a process to compensate all the affected parties.
Ms Namugwanya said the Solicitor is currently working on an instrument which will guide the process.
The instrument, she said, will then guide the Government Chief Valuer to determine the money that will be paid to associations which had running leases.
She noted that market associations were being used to exploit traders and that is why the President directed that all public markets be run by government.
"We will compensate for the lease, ground rent and money spent on structures. The instruction we have from the President is that we should make these markets nurseries of trade in the country where traders can first get experience before they venture into bigger businesses," the minister said.
She asked the traders to remain calm, saying that government is monitoring the situation in all the contentious facilities.
According to statistics from KCCA, there are a total of 84 markets in the city, 16 of which are public while 68 are privately owned.
However, Mr Bukenya noted that they are currently unable to manage both types of markets because of staffing challenges. He added that the current 1942 markets Act doesn't provide for a private market yet KCCA cannot do away with private markets in the city.
He noted that they will engage Parliament to push for the amendment of the current law to ensure that market issues are comprehensively addressed.