Masaka Taxi Park War Escalates with 'Illegal' Invasion of Key Taxi Stage

More than 20 taxi drivers in Masaka town have forcefully reoccupied a taxi stage from which they were evicted a month ago.

In September the police evicted all taxi drivers from the Masaka Mayor's Gardens and the lands taxi stage. They were relocated to Masaka main taxi park, which had been abandoned for more than a year.

The police said the congregation of a large number of cars and people in the center of the town made it vulnerable to terrorist attack. They also reasoned that the lands taxi stage was located in a tight corner that exposed people to motor accidents.

Now Peter Ntege, an influential taxi owner in Masaka has mobilized his friends and sympathizers to head back to lands taxi stage.

Ntege is the owner of BATATA Company, one of several companies involved in a dispute over the management of Masaka main taxi park. He says the eviction last month was illegal because his company obtained a contract to manage all taxi stages in Kimanya-Kyabakuza Division and the lands taxi stage falls under his remit.

Ntege says he has the backing of the courts to defy the eviction order.

Earlier this year, High Court judge Kibuuka Musoke said BATATA Company had the right to fully exploit its contract with Masaka Municipal Council. He ruled that in lieu of honoring this contract, the council should pay Ntege's company 200 million shillings.

Peter Ntege claims that the municipal council is working in cahoots with Brigadier Elly Kayanja, Managing Director of a rival taxi management company called Equator Touring Services. He says Kayanja's intention is to force him out of business in Masaka.

The Town Clerk of Masaka, Benon Yiga, says a resolution of the taxi park wrangles is hard because each division in the town manages and collects its own revenue. He says it doesn't help that the Minister of Local Government, Adolf Mwesige, blocked the municipal council's intervention in the matter.

Yiga claims that because of the conflict, the municipality loses nine million shillings in revenue from the public transport sector every month.

In the meantime the police are monitoring developments around the taxi stages. They say they don't want to see a repeat of violent clashes between Equator Touring Services and BATATA Company, which occurred last Sunday. Seven taxi drivers were seriously injured in that incident.