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How Vendors are Struggling to Live off Kampala Streets

Viola Kobusobozi, one of the vendors who have insisted on working in the streets, says that while the situation is tense, she cannot afford to take up working space in the markets because of the costs involved. Kobusobozi, a mother of two instead walks around the city with a pack of face masks, some hanging on pegs with the hope that she can still attract buyers.
Vendors occupy part of the Parking of Segawa Market in Kisenyi

Audio 5

A less congested and more calm environment returns to Kampala, a few weeks after the city authorities enforced operations to rid the city of street vendors and hawkers.

The last such cleanup was conducted by Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA under the leadership of Jennifer Musisi Semakula. Using law enforcement officers from the Authority, Musisi removed vendors off the streets arresting several and confiscating merchandise from many.

Now under the leadership of Dorothy Kisaka, KCCA started the year with intense operations to get vendors off the streets and into the markets. Ordinary police, officers from the Field Force Unit-FFU and Military police joined law enforcement officers to comb the streets once again. But while many have found footing in the markers, several others still play hide and seek with the enforcers.

Viola Kobusobozi, one of the vendors who have insisted on working in the streets, says that while the situation is tense, she cannot afford to take up working space in the markets because of the costs involved. Kobusobozi, a mother of two instead walks around the city with a pack of face masks, some hanging on pegs with the hope that she can still attract buyers. 

//Cue in; "Ekiri mu kibuga... 

Cue out...n’omugo kiki?"//

Kobusobozi defiance comes with a lot of vigilance. As she walks or sits on Kampala streets, she watches closely for any law enforcers and runs into hiding as soon as she spots them to avoid arrest. Every passing minute, she says, security personnel are inspecting the city to ensure that no vendor is left behind.

A URN reporter observed about six groups of law enforcers between Namirembe road, adjacent to the new tax park and Burton street a distance of about one kilometre. Each group has about seven to ten members drawn from the different security groups.

Jessy Sendegeya, who rides a motorcycle along Ben Kiwanuka street says the law enforcers are tough and ruthless while confiscating merchandise and arresting those they find on the streets. These officers, Sendegeya says also walk to the stores where street vendors keep merchandise from which they sell, and confiscate it.

//Cue in; "Ekibi kyendabye babakwata...

Cue out...biba bikutte kwaani."//

But besides those who continue to hustle on the streets, hundreds of vendors have now settled in different markets in the City. One such market is Segawa Market located along Mwanga II road, just a few meters from Kisenyi Health Center II.

Segawa was constructed like an ordinary arcade, in a U-format with wide space in the middle. It is part of the open spaces that more than 50 vendors have found space solace in. The floor is well-demarcated to allow for every vendor to have their space while leaving walkways for use by people accessing the market.

Isma Mubiru, the Chairman of Fuba Tukole Hawkers and vendors Association says when KCCA intensified operations, management at Segawa Market approached them with an offer to take up shops at the market, at no cost for six months and start paying thereafter. 

But the vendors, unlike shop keepers who operate in individual enclosed rooms or shops, asked to use part of the open space which has saved them from the running battles they previously engaged in with law enforcers. 

//Cue in; "Omugagga nti yatutuukirirra...   

Cue out...teyagala nakwogerera nnyo."//

But many still say they aren't making as much money as they did while on the streets. Night Laken, says she would make at least 20,000 Shillings a day working on the street but by 1 pm at the new market, she had only made 2,000 Shillings from selling lemon.

Laken, a mother of six says they can't afford well-established markets like Nakasero and Owino because they not only have less capital to compete but have no money to rent space. Although these are public markets, several of the stalls within were sold to vendors who are now asking for money to let anyone occupy them.

//Cue in; "Write now we...

Cue out...away like dogs."//  

Andrew Kasagga, another vendor who equally hasn’t found as many customers yet wishes that KCCA left them to operate on specific streets in the evening when shop owners start closing. He also wants the government to give them capital to grow their businesses and to rent shops. 

//Cue in; "Nayenga ekikulu tulinga... 

Cue out...nti etumalako emmaali."// 

A few days back during a televised interview, president Yoweri Museveni advised the vendors to get space and work in the markets, adding that they were inconveniencing shop owners yet they don’t pay any tax