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Private Markets are Illegal, Attorney General Tells KCCA

The guidance first came as a response to the KCCA Market Ordinance in which the Authority sought to regulate both private and public markets. But the Attorney General guided that the authority had no legal mandate over private markets, a decision that triggered questions on the fate of private Markets in Kampala.

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Attorney General William Byaruhanga has advised Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA to regulate private Markets as any other business but not as markets. Byaruhanga says the 1942 Market Act doesn't provide for private Markets. Instead, it provides for public Markets established by the local government or central government, implying that private markets exist in contravention of the law.

The guidance first came as a response to the KCCA Market Ordinance in which the Authority sought to regulate both private and public markets.  But the Attorney General guided that the authority had no legal mandate over private markets, a decision that triggered questions on the fate of private Markets in Kampala.

Following a request for further guidance, the Attorney General has guided that private markets can be regulated like any other business. He said that the businesses under which these can be regulated include trading zones, bazaars or any other trading under the Trade (Licencing) Act, an arrangement he says should be interim until the markets are phased out.

But Doreen Nyanjura, the deputy Lord Mayor who is also the KCCA Executive Secretary in charge of Gender and Community Production says that the Attorney General's guidance is not yet clear on how the markets will be handled and later phased out, as he suggests. Nyanjura questions the consequences of regulating the business as anything other than a market, even when it exists as one.

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KCCA Commercial Services Officer Henry Bukenya says that the best option is for the government to take over the private Markets either by buying them or compensating the current owners. Bukenya says that because of the lack of a law establishing private markets, KCCA has been managing them administratively without issuing licenses.

"If you look at the government focus, it is on having all the markets established and managed by the government because these are places where the government has a lot of interest since they employ vulnerable persons," said Bukenya.

Bukenya adds that KCCA's involvement has majorly been on administrative issues like garbage collection and adherence to health standards among others. He is now suggesting that KCCA includes in its Market ordinance, a provision that establishes a market through a public-private partnership which would mean that Private Markets exist but run collaboratively with KCCA.

Badru Katende, the Chairman of Muluya market at Kalerwe in Kawempe Division says the government should work with private market owners to develop markets for vendors to work in a better environment. Katende, who dismissed the allegation that vendors in private markets are overcharged says private market owners or their landlords are opposed to a government takeover of the markets.

"A number of private Markets owners say that they would rather change the line of business than let the government take over their markets. When KCCA mooted a plan to buy markets at Kalerwe and construct one big market, a number of landowners were hesitant" said Katende.

He adds that government needs a clear regulatory framework to guide operations of markets rather than phase them out or take them over. According to KCCA, there are 16 government Markets and 68 privately owned Markets in Kampala.

Currently, there is a private member's bill of the Market Act that seeks to introduce the establishment of private Markets. Until this bill which also seeks to repeal the 1942 Market Act is passed by parliament with the provision on the establishment of Private Markets, private Markets exist illegally and KCCA cannot regulate them.

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