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Mbarara City council Agrees to Award stalls to kiosk owners in the central market.

Joshua Nahamya.

Mbarara.

Mbarara city leadership headed by the deputy city clerk Richard Mugisha finally agreed to accommodate kiosk owners in the newly developed central market.

It all started in 2014 when a section of vendors who had constructed temporary structures on the said council land claimed ownership of the land.

The situation worsened after Mbarara municipal council by then acquired a title for plots 2-4 along Mbaguta Street, which hosts the market. As a result, kiosk owners successfully petitioned the High Court Mbarara, challenging how the government was to develop the said land without consulting them.

“They even took us to court before we started construction, they applied for a caveat but we applied and the court lifted the caveat and we were allowed to construct as a matter is being handled,” says Richard Mugisha deputy city clerk Mbarara

While commissioning the new market, minister for local government Hon Raphael Magyezi insisted that the said market belonged to the Mbarara city council, not the Kiosk Owners Association.

This annoyed the kiosk owners to keep pushing the matter until now when they are demanding their share in the new market.

Mugisha says they are being disturbed by the people who were allowed to put lockups and other facilities on the central market land.

“The matter is still before court and it’s a prejudice to discuss matters in court but I am optimistic that logic will prevail because this land belongs to council” Mugisha explained

The fact that the said kiosk owners were previously paying rent is a clear manifestation that the city council is the true owner of the contested land.

“Those people who went to court there is evidence that they were paying tenancy fees and how do you pay rent when you are a landlord? But our learned friends in the judiciary will interpret those things and judicate” he said

He says that as a city council, they are ready to settle the matter outside court, calling upon the kiosk owners to withdraw the case for dialogue.

“The core purpose of council’s existence is not to be involved in litigation with the people, we are serving because they are the ones who are developing this city so we are willing to mediate and resolve the matter so that together we build this town because this is a private sector led economy,” said Mugisha

A snap shot of some of the aggrieved Mbarara central market kiosk owners association members coming from the meeting(1)

He adds that “we wouldn’t want to frustrate them because these are the local investors that we want to invest in Mbarara and as council; we are willing to compensate them”.

Instead of going for other bureaucratic unending processes, why don’t we enter into mediation, and for us as a council we are willing, we offered them an olive branch a long time ago because we want to sit and resolve this matter, adds Mugisha

However, he asked the kiosk owners to disassociate themselves from claiming to be landlords on the city council land. “For us, we are willing to recognize them as people who owned facilities but not the council land then we see how they should be executed in as far as the market policy is concerned,” Mugisha said

The City Executive Committee headed by Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi, the mayor recommended to the council that the City Clerk meets the kiosk owners Association and be allocated the remaining spaces in the new market.

Even members of parliament on the committee on Public service and local government headed by Hon Godfrey Onzima while touring the redeveloped facility asked the city council leadership to cater to the kiosk owners in the market.

Onzima also recommended the allocation committee follow the policies and guidelines while allocating vendors to the new markets.

“I see many people who were landlords complaining that they entered into an agreement with authorities but when it came to allocations they were disregarded I think that one is going against this guideline yet it is supposed to help the allocation committee to look into the categories of people who are supposed to get allocated to the spaces so RCC and mayor take action,” he said

Hon Hon Rita Atukwasa, Woman MP Mbarara city asked council leaders and technocrats to expedite the market act to avoid making mistakes that could lead the city council to financial losses.

However, Ndabatata Ngabirano, Treasurer of the aggrieved Mbarara Central Market Kiosk Owners Association Ltd confirmed that they were legally allocated land to construct kiosks by the then Mbarara Municipal Council in 1989 and were fully given the powers as bonafide occupants on the same land.

“We applied in 1982 to get space, a request that was approved by the municipal council in 1989. And our matter started way back 2006 we’ve wrote a number of letters and we have never refused to sit with them but they think we are just nothing and that they have powers to do whatever they want”

Ngabirano insists that as kiosk owners, they are not willing to be tenants on the very land which they got from the council.

“The problem is that the council wants to make us its tenants in kiosks which were originally ours, something that we shall not allow because it gave us allocations between 1982-1988 now it should invite us as kiosk owners and give us what belongs to us”. He said

He says they have allocations, transfer letters, selling and buying agreements, mortgaging letters, and government policy to prove ownership of central market land.

Ngabirano adds that they can only withdraw the matter which is in court only if the council is ready to award them what belongs to them.

“The case is reported by people and can be withdrawn by people. Opening a case in court we were looking for justice but if council wants to talk to us, we have no problem what we need is to sit and agree if they are ready to give us what belongs to us” He said

Ngabirano says “They never gave us lockups, we were given land so I want my space and if not then they should compensate me with a lockup”.

He says the matter to decide ownership of the market in Mbarara has been delayed by the court of appeal which has not been fixed since 2019.

“The case was ready for ruling but it is delayed by errors realised in the main suit which our lawyers expedited and challenged in the court of appeal that we are still waiting”

Benson Ruhangura, a member of the kiosk owners association also says they cannot afford to rent the kiosks when they were landlords to the vendors.

“The truth is council invited us to give us lockups in the new market but the matter is still in court and it cannot end prematurely because it requires a consent document,” Ruhangura said

He asked council leaders to wait for the final verdict rather than pressuring them to become tenants on the council land.

“Originally we were renting the kiosks to vendors and getting money from their which means the aspect of becoming tenants now we can’t afford,” says Ruhangura

He adds that as kiosk owners they are losing a lot of money requesting the court to consider costs and expenses.

“We are losing money; we are losing our time but eventually if they are not serious they will also lose because we will count all that was lost and there is no shortcut for justice to prevail”

The total number of kiosk owners who missed allocation in the redeveloped market is about 400 but only 18 went to court. The 21 Billion Shillings market constructed under the Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Project (MATIP) with funding from the African Development Bank is a two-storied facility constructed to accommodate over 1000 vendors. It has a total of 485 lockups and each vendor will be paying between 50,000-200,000shillings per month depending on the size of the space.

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