The newly constructed markets in Soroti, Tororo, Busia and Kitooro in Entebbe have remained closed months after they were commissioned by President Yoweri Museveni.
Many of the markets were commissioned three months ago, giving hope to thousands of vendors who had spent more than two years in the temporal structures provided to operate their businesses. Some of the vendors remained on the streets after failing to get space in the temporary market space provided by the authorities.
But some vendors now think the commissioning of these markets was political, and probably aimed at canvassing votes for NRM candidates. Others think it was hurriedly done before the markets were fully completed.
Soroti Central Market was commissioned by President Museveni on November 22, 2020. Until now, the market that was expected to start operations after two weeks is still closed. URN has learnt that many people claimed space in the new market, forcing the authorities in the city to review the list of vendors.
Dan Edepu, the President of Soroti Development Forum says that besides the exaggerated list of vendors, they received thousands of applications for the small space that had not been allocated earlier in the market. Sections in the market that are yet to be allocated include, among others, the radio space, Police Post, TV Station and Daycare centres.
But, Edepu adds that all vendors have to undergo orientation before they are allowed inside the new market, a process that has been delayed by-elections.
Tororo Municipality Mayor, John Opio says the Municipal Council is in the final stages of electing sectorial representatives in the allocation committee and once this is done, the process of relocating the vendors will start.
Opio says the relocation committee is tasked to ensure that no vendor is smuggled on the list of the final beneficiaries. Persons who were registered earlier will be the first to be allocated stalls. But just like Soroti and others, Kitooro market in Entebbe has also been affected by the heated election season, and the need to finalize rates, among other issues.
Simon Ssemakula, the Agricultural Officer at Entebbe Municipal Council, says that the Kitooro Market remains closed because the council is waiting for a green light from the Local Government ministry. Ssemakula says that the government wants all the eleven markets under Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Programme (MATIP-II), program re-opened on the same day, yet some of them are still under construction.
The Kitooro Market Council is also yet to disclose the market rate for each vendor. Before the vendors were relocated from the market in 2017, each was paying shillings 75,000 per month as market dues. Isabirye Marijan, the chairman Kitooro Central Market, says the vendors are anxiously waiting for the market rates.
Kitooro Market leaders and Entebbe Municipal Council cleared 930 vendors by March last year. Isabirye, however, says 220 people who applied for registration were rejected because they were not vendors. Among the rejected applicants were council staff and politicians.
Jennifer Samanya, a trader dealing in second-hand clothes in Busia town says that their businesses are at risk because they currently operate in an open place which has no security. Similarly, Swaibu Lukuya, the chairman of fresh food vendors in Busia town appealed to the Municipal authorities to speed up the processes of opening the market so that they can resume normal business.
But Vincent Okurut, the Busia Municipality Town Clerk says that they finalized with the traders’ register and submitted it to the Ministry of Local Government. He said that they are now waiting for the approved list before issuing proper guidelines for the market operation.
Bernard Ochieng, one of the vendors waiting to occupy Tororo central market says that in December vendors requested the town clerk to halt the opening of the new market because they were going to lose their customers since it was a festive season and that the market would be opened shortly after the festivities were done. Ochieng now says the agreed position of opening the market in January has been undermined by the municipal officials.